Senaux, B. (2013), "Best papers from the "Sport as Business" – tracks at the European Academy of Management (EURAM) annual meeting in Rotterdam 2012", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 3 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/SBM-06-2013-0017Download as .RIS
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Best papers from the “Sport as Business” – tracks at the European Academy of Management (EURAM) annual meeting in Rotterdam
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4
It is a pleasure to introduce this new special issue, gathering a selection of best papers presented at the EURAM Conference in Rotterdam in 2012. Since it started in 2009 in Liverpool, the track “Sport as a Business” has been very successful in attracting original and stimulating contributions from not only Europe, but also America, Asia and Oceania. Its importance was quickly recognised by EURAM and the track soon evolved into a Strategic Interest Group (SIG), now entitled “Managing Sport” to reflect the diversity of sport organisations. The SIG, and its tracks at EURAM annual conference, is a useful platform to further research in sport management, and anchor it within the field of business and management. This is also the aspiration of Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal and the fruitful collaboration between the SIG and the journal is reflected by this third special issue in as many volumes.
We are thankful to Emerald Group Publishing Ltd and Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal for their continuous support of this SIG, not only through this special issue but also by sponsoring the SIG annual best paper award and best reviewer award. In Rotterdam 2012, the Award Committee was chaired by Armin Wiedenegger (Best Paper 2011) and Anna Fyrberg (Best Reviewer 2011). We wish to thank them as well as all the reviewers of the SIG for their excellent work which contributes to the success of this SIG and makes this special issue possible.
The papers selected for this special issue, though highlighting the dominance of football as an empirical field, are representatives of the depth and breadth of research in sport management, its growing maturity, and its contribution to the overall research in business and management.
The first paper, by Christos Anagnostopoulos and David Shilbury, aims at capturing the complex undertakings behind the implementation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in sport organisations. Relying on a thick description supported by interviews with 21 charitable foundation managers of the top two divisions of English football, Anagnostopoulos and Shilbury propose to move beyond the largely single-level of analysis of previous studies and to integrate the micro-domain's focus on individuals (i.e. foundation managers) with the meso- and macro-domain's focus (clubs, leagues and socio-political environment).
England is the country with the strongest institutionalised forms of CSR in European football: a joint-initiative by the Football League and the Professional Footballers Association to tackle hooliganism implemented in the mid-1980s by clubs’ Football in the Community departments; and, in the mid-1990s, the British Government recognised football's potential to be a key deliverer of policy objectives. Currently, four core themes are supported by the leagues (community cohesion, education, health and sports participation) and lead to specific funding which foundations can tap into. This multi-level institutional perspective, from government social policy to local specificities through leagues’ requirements, contributes to shape the environment in which clubs’ foundations are acting and defines foundations’ agenda in what Anagnostopoulos and Shilbury coin “environmental determinism”.
This “determinism” seems to be stricter as far as the organisational forms are concerned (e.g. CSR being delivered by a separate foundation), and much looser in terms of the actual actions undertaken by these foundations. While encouraging and legitimating certain actions, there does not appear yet to be any taken-for-grantedness and we seem to be more in presence of a “conditional responsiveness” in line with resource dependence theory: the availability of resources and expertise appear to play a key role in the selection and implementation of CSR-related programmes. At a more micro-level, the CSR managers are central in setting up the foundations’ agenda in what the authors describe as a “self-assertive undertaking”. Having specialist knowledge and gained trust from their board and parent club through their track-record, CSR managers are then in a position to not only shape the strategic agenda of the foundation, but also to challenge institutional forces and influence funding decisions from the league. This does not mean, however, that the foundation and the club always work in a harmonious way. On the contrary, Anagnostopoulos and Shilbury identify occurrences of tensions in a sometimes “dysfunctional affiliation”. The existence of the foundation itself appear in some cases to be only justified because it is mandatory, leading to a structure which is largely push away in the background and for which the main objective is not to be effective, but to not cost money. This lack of genuine understanding from the club will often translate in missed opportunities and the foundation not being used to its full potential. This is all the more surprising as CSR managers seem to be fully aware of the importance of protecting and developing the club's brand (“brand shelter”): they not only realise the potential this brand has in reaching people, but also feel responsible for safeguarding core organisational resources such as its roots in the community. When shaping the CSR agenda, they therefore put the protection of the club's brand at the core.
In the second paper of this special issue, Hallgeir Gammelsæter critically reviews the use of sport in the leadership literature, focusing specifically on coach turnover in sport teams as one of the key empirical testing grounds for research on leader succession and performance. This large literature, initiated in the 1960s, aims at testing whether the decision to change managers can improve performance and considers sport as the perfect empirical field because of the number of coach's replacement and seemingly ease to measure and compare (sporting) performance before and after. The findings of these studies are, however, contradictory, suggesting either that there is a vicious circle (i.e. higher rate of succession deteriorate performance) or that managerial replacement as little impact on performance and is mainly scapegoating, or that there might indeed be a positive impact under specific circumstances.
This, Gammelsæter argues, is partly due to a lack of consideration for the specificities of sport by leadership scholars. The fundamental instability of sport performance and the zero sum characteristic of sport competition (a given number of points are allocated among the teams every season, and improved performance of some clubs are losses of others) and the necessary cooperation between competitors mean that measuring sporting performance to assess the effectiveness of succession is somehow irrelevant. The significant institutional changes which occurred over the last decades, and their potential impact on leadership, make the use of long time series in the leader succession studies somehow inappropriate. This is even more the case because of the pluralistic nature of commercialised sports clubs which makes defining performance a very complex issue.
Gammelsæter then concludes by outlining the needs for more qualitative studies of leadership in sport, which can inform not only sport managers but also researchers aiming to use sport as an empirical field. Though research on sport can with no doubt contribute to the mainstream management literature, excessive or too fast generalisations to other sectors should be made with caution.
The third paper, by Stephen Morrow, discusses whether it might be time for a new model of financial reporting for football clubs. Building on a review of the literature, this conceptual paper stimulates the debate on reporting for football clubs and opens ways for further empirical research which could explore practical broader approaches to the current reporting on football clubs. Morrow first reminds us that reporting has two basic objectives: ensuring accountability and supporting decision making. Going through the various stakeholders of football clubs, Morrow then demonstrates the limitations of traditional financial reporting to satisfy their needs for information. Even investors have been shown to be motivated – in football – by other reasons than financial return. Morrow continues by building up on the long tradition of scholars who argued that, far from being a purely neutral technical process, accounting is a social construct and has inevitably a political and social dimension. This is particularly important when looking at football clubs, with their strong social resonance.
The implementation by UEFA of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations as part of its club licensing system provides an opportunity for a context specific approach and the identification of social and political outcomes considered desirable by UEFA. The key performance measure in these regulations is the requirement for clubs to break-even over a three-year rolling period and this is what may potentially triggered sanctions for clubs which did not meet the criteria. However, several activities are excluded from the so-called relevant expenses used to determine whether a club is breaking even. They represent activities which UEFA wants to encourage for the overall social welfare of football and include expenditure on community development activities, development of a new stadium or training academy. Morrow concludes by outlining the need for financial reporting to be prepared “with a particular purpose in mind and with due attention to social and organisational context”, which may lead to “providing fuller and different pictures of the performance of clubs”. Better reporting of CSR activities, for instance, would create an incentive for clubs to pay more attention to their CSR agenda and would undoubtedly attenuate the dysfunctional affiliation between the foundation and its parent club which was described in the first paper of this special issue by Anagnostopoulos and Shilbury.
In the fourth paper of this special issue, Darin White and Keith Absher explore the role a globally prominent sports team can have on perceptions of its country of origin by foreigners. A country's image is an important cue in consumer choice behaviour, and White and Absher suggest that loyalty and viewership of a country's sports team – in this study, Manchester United – will positively influence country-of-origin image – here, England. Loyalty is expected to create a strongly positive perception of the people, culture and home location of the team, and having watched the team play – either live or on TV – provides fan to emotionally attach to the team, which will lead to positive feelings about the home country of the team overall. To test their hypothesis, White and Absher conducted a survey in four culturally diverse countries (USA, French speaking Canada, Guatemala and Serbia) to assure generalizability. Since having had first-hand experience of a country very strongly influence its image, respondents who had ever visited England were excluded. In total 951 questionnaires were analysed and the results confirmed the direct effect of team loyalty (H1), direct effect of team viewership (H2) and moderating effect of viewership on team loyalty (H3). Because Manchester United is such an extreme case, it would be interesting to see, in future research, if similar results are achieved by teams with a much lower reach or less successful, in particularly on H2. It would also be interesting to assess whether strong loyalty for a team leads to negative effect on the country-of-origin image of a rival team.
There are few empirical researches trying to determine the factors which influence the formation of country-of-origin image in potential consumers’ minds, and this paper is therefore a useful contribution to the business literature. It also has managerial implications and White and Absher draw up some recommendations for country officials. Since a “country would benefit by developing and promoting its nation's sports team on a global scale [… or …] targeting specific nationalities and demographic groups”, White and Absher suggests that country decision makers should actively ensure that their most famous teams are broadcasted in target markets, and “implement strategies to help build strong fan passion among international supporters of their globally prominent sports teams”. There might be questions on whether this is within the remit of countries officials, as sport teams and leagues are private organisations, which own their broadcasting rights and have their own strategy. However, it is not to say that country officials cannot try and negotiate with teams and sport governing bodies to at least be able to mobilise the teams in promotional campaigns and facilitate any internationalisation effort.
This special issue reflects the diversity of research in sport management and its growing maturity. While acknowledging that sport is, in many ways, a very specific setting, the papers in that special issue also highlight the growing contribution of the field to the overall management literature.
Coventry University Business School, Coventry, UK