To identify the organisations that provide global governance within the sports industry, to discuss their role, and to suggest that they have self‐governance problems due to both their evolution and the massive commercialisation of sport of recent decades.
An empirical‐based argument is conducted. Standing at the apex of a hierarchy of national governing bodies and playing organisations, global sports organisations (GSOs) are defined and classified in terms of their governance functions, their commonalities and differences and their interconnections described and analysed. The GSOs for soccer, the Olympics and athletics are used as illustrative cases. Deficiencies in the small sports governance literature are identified. It is argued how the GSOs have maintained their authority as governance organisations despite being private organisations. Hirschman's “Voice, exit and loyalty” model is offered as a partial theoretical interpretation of their situation.
Although one of the GSOs' original major functions of formalising international sport is now complete, they have retained not only their sport governance monopolies and authority but also the original structures designed for amateur sport. This creates problems when the governance monopoly can be used as a revenue device.
Sport is an important part of global culture and an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars where accusations of corruption are common but global governance is little examined. The GSOs, present‐day commercial roles and enormous revenues create unresolved governance problems and these are described.
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