Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility

Jonathan Robertson (College of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 7 April 2015



Jonathan Robertson (2015), "Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility", Corporate Governance, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 274-278.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


The Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility, edited by Juan Luis Paramio-Salcines, Kathy Babiak and Geoff Walters is a long-awaited text that bridges the sport management and corporate social responsibility (CSR) academic fields. The edited book draws on 56 contributors who – collectively – have largely been responsible for applying the foundational management constructs of social responsibility within the sport industry over the past decade. Resultantly, this collaboration has yielded a 25-chapter, 360-page publication that is split into five sections:

  1. theoretical perspectives;

  2. implementation;

  3. stakeholder engagement;

  4. communicating CSR; and

  5. measuring CSR in sport.

Holistically the management perspective of corporate “social” responsibility neatly compliments Segaert et al. (2012) corporate (note not social) responsibility discourse in Sports Governance, Development and Corporate Responsibility. The difference whilst seemingly semantic is significant, with Segaert et al. (2012) placing prominence on organisational dimensions of corporate governance, corruption, economic and legal issues within the sporting context. In comparison, the management perspective of Paramio-Salcines, Babiak and Walters concentrates on theoretical, practical and measurement responses to broader social issues, such as environmentalism, community involvement, stakeholder engagement and social advocacy.

Section reviews

Following brief introductory remarks by the editors, the theoretical foundations that underpin the subsequent integration and application of social responsibility within the sport industry are introduced. Babiak and Wolfe (Ch. 1) take the reader on a journey from Carroll’s (1979) foundational management definition of CSR through ethical justifications and unique factors, such as the sporting context. In doing so, the authors outline six social responsibilities in sport “pillars” combined with examples from well-known sports leagues that establish a preliminary point of departure for latter conceptual development for the reader. In the subsequent chapters, Waddington, Chelladurai and Skirstad (Ch. 2) and Levermore (Ch. 3) add critical insight to the field of sport and social responsibility research. The former provides a critique of which stakeholder groups actually benefit from CSR and investigate the socio-genesis of the concept, whilst the latter provides a polemic critical examination of the “depth” of CSR. Levermore suggests a degree of “greenwashing” (excessive marketing of social and environmental activities), ability to distort power relations and absence of tangible programme impact measures leads to a lack of substance and failure to address gross corporate misconduct within many sports organisations. Given the potential for corporate misconduct and inherent complexity of CSR within sport, Bradish, Mallen and Wolff (Ch. 4) present the case for incorporating CSR and accountability into higher educational offerings to prepare future sport managers with the required competencies to operate within this complex and changing social environment.

The second section begins with an overview of the implementation strategies that the Livestrong foundation adopted for a fundraising cycling event (Ch. 5; Filo, Funk and O’Brien). The authors demonstrate that a meaningful event for participants was able to be facilitated by developing a unique communitas based on the camaraderie, (cycling) competency and a shared cause (prior to subsequent legitimacy concerns around Lance Armstrong). Anagnostopoulos (Ch. 6) describes the socio-genesis of social responsibility in English football. Founded on financial and social legitimacy motives that led to the development of community foundations as separate organisations to their “parent” football club, the author uses the analogy of a strategic football team formation to describe the multidimensionality of CSR provision within elite football clubs. Trendafilova, Pfahl and Casper (Ch. 7) investigate a similar partnership agreement in NCAA member universities and the inherent challenges in implementing environmentally responsible programmes within – often highly commercialized – athletic departments. The chapter compares the perceived high priority and environmental awareness of key stakeholders with implementation constraints, such as budget, planning and personnel. Zhang, Jin, Kim and Li (Ch. 8) explore the development of environmental CSR within Asian mega-events. Placed within the context of a bourgeoning middle class in Asia, the authors trace the inclusion of environmental policies back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics all the way through to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in which the local organising committee worked with the IOC and the national government to address “air quality, energy, transportation, water, environment, ecological conversation and construction, industrial pollution and solid waste management” (p.132). Harada (Ch. 12) adds to this perspective by providing a historical view of CSR development within Japan and highlighting the idiosyncrasies of the Japanese sport system, wherein elite teams are often a business unit for corporations, and thus designed for brand and community goals as part of a larger corporate social agenda. A key theme in this book is building the theory-practice divide, and chapters 9-11 provide great insight into this space. Phil Downs (MBE), Manchester United’s operations manager for spectators with a disability, provides a retrospective first-hand account, the integration of accessibility and disability into the organisations CSR culture and operations over three-decades and multiple redevelopments of Old Trafford (Downs and Paramio-Salcines, Ch. 9). From a Northern Irish perspective, Smith, Langhammer and Carson (Ch. 10) provide two case studies that investigate the ability of sport to unify communities separated by both cultural and religious divides. Campos (Ch. 11) provides a Spanish perspective of CSR through a discussion of Inter Movistar Futsal Club’s community involvement programme – the Megacracks Roadshow – and highlights the media and communication benefits to the organisation.

Section three delves into the relationships between sport organisations-CSR activities and their stakeholders. Kihl and Tainsky (Ch. 13) provide a pertinent discussion on strategic partnerships between corporate sport clubs and their local communities, and demonstrate the need to align social activities with organisational core competencies. An additional benefit for the reader is the focus on failed community partnerships which is scarcely present in the broad CSR and sport management literature. Both, chapters 14 (Misener, Sant and Mason) and 15 (Parent and Chappelet) investigate the stakeholder relationship between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), local organising committees and various stakeholders involved in the delivery of Olympic games. Misener et al. use the background of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic winter games to investigate sustainability as a central theme in hosting and delivering a successful mega event. Parent and Chappelet focus on the organisational level and map the IOC’s key stakeholder relationships, social responsibility spheres and the regulatory environment. Both chapters deliver extensive insight into the inherent complexity of delivering a socially responsible mega-event. Babiak, Heinze, Lee and Juravich (Ch. 16) adopt the social entrepreneurship paradigm to investigate the philanthropic work of four elite athletes; Jimmie Johnson, Dikembe Mutombo, Billie Jean King and Peyton Manning and their respective roles as social-change agents through establishing charitable foundations. To round out this section, Walters and Tacon (Ch. 17) surveyed top-division European football clubs and found that CSR has a long way to develop in elite football due to the lack of CSR reporting, minimal engagement in environmental activities and the problematic ability of elite clubs to forge meaningful connections with the local community.

The fourth section focuses on CSR communication within the Italian and English football leagues and within a single English Premier League Club – Charlton Athletic. Morgan (Ch. 18), investigated the outcomes of the English Premier Leagues 4 per cent wealth redistribution into domestic and international community programmes under the “Creating Chances” programmes. The research – practitioner relationship is further enhanced with a first-hand account of the Charlton Athletic Community Trust and the clubs initiative to reduce knife-related violence and gang membership by former commercial director Steve Sutherland (Ch. 19). In particular, this chapter focuses on the public relations, media promotion and on-ground delivery of the “Street Violence Ruins Lives” programme and the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits that the programme delivered within a resource-constrained environment. Buscarini and Mura (Ch. 20) highlight the need for sport governing bodies to report their social activities despite managerial and cultural challenges in developing, adopting and publicly communicating social responsibility reports within Italian sport federations.

The final section of the handbook focuses on the social responsibility measurement paradox. The premise of the measurement paradox lies in what Walker, Heere and Kim (Ch. 23) describe as “evaluation-phobia” – or the situation that “organizations are increasingly reluctant to evaluate their CSR programmes, as such evaluative processes could potentially illustrate ineffectiveness, thereby fostering negative publicity” (p. 314). The authors propose that if social responsibility is truly intended to serve both societal and organisational interests, then society-orientated evaluation measures need to be improved and communicated as part of social responsibility evaluation. Kwak and Cornwell (Ch. 21) investigate the organisational benefits (public relations, brand and sales) and risks (programme legitimacy, cause-exploitation) of cause-related marketing in sport. The authors caution that in an increasingly cluttered and context-specific cause marketing environment organisations should take care in selecting, developing and implementing cause-related marketing campaigns and strategic alliances. Conversely, Inoue and Kent (Ch. 22), Hindley and Williamson (Ch. 24) and Parnell, Stratton, Drust and Richardson (Ch. 25) focus on the societal and practical aspects of the measurement paradox. The former presents a CSR impact framework that classes the impact of CSR initiatives on the basis of the unit of analysis (individual vs community) and the timing of impact (long-term vs intermediate) to evaluate the societal impact of social responsibility initiatives. The latter chapters present case studies of the Notts County and Everton football clubs “Football in the Community” programmes. Hindley and Williamson argue that if a sport is seen as an attractive “hook” for maximising social objectives through participation; programmes need stronger evaluation, a high level of constructive stakeholder dialogue and a focus on the influential role of the practitioner in programme delivery. The paradox of CSR measurement is furthered by Parnell et al. ’s research that represents one of the few longitudinal methodologies (2006-2009) in the area and adopts an ethnographic “action research” approach to understanding Everton FC’s Football in the community programme. The programme utilised community coaching to promote health awareness in school children. Findings indicated a performance-based model of football coaching, resistance to organisational change and low organisational priority were detrimental factors to the health promotion remit of the programme.

Implications and future directions

There are several implications from this book for CSR theory and management in the sport industry. Theoretically, several authors have added critical perspectives to the generally affirmative theoretical discourse between social responsibility and sport. The critical discourse is particularly appropriate considering the widely professed intentions of CSR and sport programmes to benefit social stakeholders, in comparison to the dearth of structured evaluations that measure the social impact of such programmes. Secondly, the text largely confines its scope to the relationship between elite sport and “corporate” conceptions of social responsibility. Whilst this provides focus for the reader, it may not be representative of the non-profit sport industry writ large. Possible niches for future publications may investigate how the conception of “social responsibility” could be applied in less commercialised settings, such as amateur sport organisations. The use of the CSR paradigm draws attention to the discernible social activities within organisations. However, corporate responsibilities (e.g. financial management, legal compliance, anti-corruption, governance) were not covered specifically within the handbook, despite having significant practical implications (Sargaert et al., 2012). Seemingly, these divides are indicative of sub-disciplines within the sport management field and suggests social responsibility theory and practice in sport would be advantaged by stronger interdisciplinary research linkages.

The use of numerous first-person accounts offers several implications for CSR management practice. Firstly, greater consideration may need to be placed on the role of the programme facilitator (coach, social worker, manager) to ensure that social outcomes are delivered in their intended format. Secondly, a benefit of first-person accounts is the focus on how sport organisations “do” CSR (people, strategy, implementation, measurement systems). Several authors identify the difficult path from idea conception to implementation and evaluation. Practice in this context can inform research to develop new ways of “doing” CSR strategy – a fruitful extension to the content covered may be to further develop Whittington’s (1996) framework of strategy-as-practice within the field of sport and CSR. Finally and critically, for practice the measurement problem remains. As multiple authors alluded to, the ability to accurately quantify the conditions in which social benefits accrue to various stakeholders’ remains CSR’s weakness. If social responsibility within the sport industry is to become widely institutionalised as managerial practice, fresh approaches to CSR measurement and evaluation are seemingly the new frontiers for academic/industry collaboration. Appropriately, Paramio-Salcines, Babiak and Walters (p. 345) conclude the handbook with two key questions:

Q1To what extent is CSR considered by sport organisations to be a marketing or PR tool?

Q2How should sport organisations structure CSR to have the most significant impact?

In summary, the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility is seminal in investigating CSR within elite sport. It provides the reader with a global viewpoint of topical issues and theory that is neatly counter balanced with critical and first-person perspectives that are relevant to implementation by practitioners.

Jonathan Robertson College of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia


Carroll, A.B. (1979), “A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance”, Academy of Management Review , Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 497-505.

Sargaert, , B. , Theeboom, , M. , Timmerman, , C. , Vanreusel, and B. (Eds) (2012), Sports Governance, Development and Corporate Responsibility , Routledge, New York, NY.

Whittington, R. (1996), “Strategy as practice”, Long Range Planning , Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 731-735.

Related articles