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Legitimacy and democracy: implications for governance in sport

Brian Minikin (School of Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 9 November 2015



The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the existing mechanisms for legitimising member based sport organisations can lead to poor governance and how accepted democratic processes can be manipulated to suit the personal agenda of individuals over the vision of the organisation.


Three cases are provided to illustrate how, it is relatively easy for individuals to manipulate the established rules in order to obtain and retain power.


The self-regulatory nature of sport assumes that elected representatives put the organisation’s interests before their own and that they always act in the best interests of the members. The evidence, provided in this paper, suggests that this assumption may be inappropriate.

Research limitations/implications

The case studies provided occurred within the boundaries of one continental grouping of countries and may be considered biased due to the specific demographic characteristics of this part of the world and the relative lack of development of sport systems that exist there.

Practical implications

The paper raises important questions about the appropriateness of the legitimising mechanisms that affect sport and the challenges that face modern sport organisations.

Social implications

The paper may provide a basis for arguing that the concepts of democracy and autonomy in sport organisations need to be reviewed if their autonomy is to be maintained.


This paper provides a basis for challenging the basis of how sport is structured and how member based sport organisations are legitimised to operate as they do.



Minikin, B. (2015), "Legitimacy and democracy: implications for governance in sport", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 5 No. 5, pp. 435-450.



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