The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the debate around conceptualising competence in sport organisations by analysing club leadership and management in the Australian Football League (AFL) at a time of professionalisation. The paper asks: what were considered appropriate activities for newly professionalised AFL clubs, and how was the role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) as a competent leader in delivering these activities conceptualised in the clubs?
Semi-structured in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 38 senior club managers in the AFL. A thematic analysis was undertaken.
The paper finds that perceptions of core activities of clubs expanded with professionalisation, and that the role of the CEO emerged as the outcome of internal organisational contests. CEO competence is not only a set of technical skills, but is social, relational and “essentially contested” (Good, 1998, p. 205).
The qualitative methodology adopted means findings cannot be generalised to other sporting leagues, however, because all clubs participated they do reflect conceptualisations in the AFL at the time. The findings are suggestive of issues that may be relevant to other sporting competitions.
The paper provides evidence that CEOs in sporting organisations should not be appointed only on the basis of technical skills. Social and relational skills are critical to organisational success.
This paper enriches understandings of AFL clubs and of CEOs as leaders in sport organisations, and contributes to theoretical debates around the organisational construction of competence.
The authors thank Professor Ann Capling, Professorial Fellow, The University of Melbourne and co-Chief Investigator with Timothy Marjoribanks on the ARC Discovery Project grant that underpins this paper, for her work on all stages of the project including the fieldwork. The work of Sara Bice, Nicole Boldt, Kay Cook, Camille La Brooy, Brigid Philip and John Roberts as research assistants on the project is also acknowledged. The authors also thank all participants for their valuable contribution to the project. The authors also thank the reviewers for their insightful comments. Research for this paper was funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery project grant scheme, DP0343731, “Where commerce and culture connect? Corporate governance and social capital in the corporate era: the case of the AFL”, ARC Discovery Project Grant, 2003-2005, CIs Professor Ann Capling; Professor Tim Marjoribanks.
Marjoribanks, T. and Farquharson, K. (2016), "Contesting competence: Chief executive officers and leadership in Australian Football League clubs", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 188-202. https://doi.org/10.1108/MIP-09-2014-0171Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited