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Toward a new (evolutionary) economics of sports

Jason Potts (Department of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University College of Business, Melbourne, Australia)
Stuart Thomas (Department of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University College of Business, Melbourne, Australia)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 10 January 2018

Issue publication date: 11 January 2018




The purpose of this paper is to propose a new classification of rules-driven sports and technology-driven sports that suggests different models of how sports develop. This paper outlines some key aspects of an evolutionary view of sports economics research and, separately, an institutional view of sports economic research.


This paper is a conceptual/theoretical piece rather than an empirical analysis of a research question. The authors scaffold a proposed analytic framework that is a combination of evolutionary economics and new institutional economics.


A new dynamic approach to the study of sports industries is called for. The authors observe that sports and sports industries exhibit dynamic qualities but in the study of sports there is no analogue of “industrial dynamics” as in economics. What is missing is the field of “evolutionary sports dynamics.” To build this, the authors frame a new evolutionary approach to the study of the sports economy and sports industries – by examining the evolution of sports, their industries, and the complex industrial ecosystems they operate in, through the lens of institutional and evolutionary economics.


The paper establishes a theoretical basis for a “New Economics of Sports” – as a shift in the types of questions that sports economics seeks to answer. These are away from “sports statics” – as a branch of applied economics of industrial organization and optimal allocation of sports resources (ala Rottenberg, 1956; Neale, 1964) – and toward concern with the economics of “sports dynamics.” The prime questions are less with the optimal organization of existing sports, and more toward understanding the origin of new sports and the evolutionary life cycles of sports.



Potts, J. and Thomas, S. (2018), "Toward a new (evolutionary) economics of sports", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 82-96.



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