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Strategy, structure, and culture within the English Premier League: An examination of large clubs

Eric Monroe Olson (College of Business, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
Rebecca Duray (College of Business, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
Cary Cooper (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Kai Monroe Olson (College of Business, Colorado State University, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 14 March 2016

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Abstract

Purpose

Prior research has argued that business practices within English football clubs are amateurish and outdated due to the comparatively small size of clubs and the restrictive nature of the cartel-like industry they compete in. But is this true for large EPL clubs (i.e. those with high market valuation and large number of employees)? Do these clubs have the ability to pursue alternative business strategies, and if so, do their organizational structures, cultures, and behavioral norms support the strategic directions they have chosen to pursue? The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper evaluates survey responses from 35 executives and business managers within three large EPL clubs. The study utilizes previously validated scales to examine issues of organizational structure, culture, and behavioral norms.

Findings

Despite operating within a closed industry, large EPL clubs are not all pursuing identical business strategies. Consistent with contingency theory, the organizational structure, culture, and behavioral norms of large EPL clubs are, for the most part, in line with what the authors would expect to find in successful, large conventional product or service businesses. However, all of the clubs included in this study appear to be following hybrid models each demonstrating characteristics of several alternative competitive strategies simultaneously.

Research limitations/implications

This initial study is limited to responses from 35 business executives and managers within three EPL clubs.

Practical implications

Although EPL clubs operate within a cartel-like industry, this study shows that business managers within these clubs do have a degree of latitude in choosing between alternative competitive strategies. In order to successfully implement a chosen strategy, business managers must insure that the organizational structure, culture, and behavioral norms within the club’s business group are aligned with the overarching objectives of that strategic choice.

Originality/value

Grounded in open systems and contingency theory, the authors challenge the conventional wisdom that because large clubs are in the business of sport they are somehow fundamentally different from other large businesses.

Keywords

Citation

Olson, E.M., Duray, R., Cooper, C. and Olson, K.M. (2016), "Strategy, structure, and culture within the English Premier League: An examination of large clubs", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 55-75. https://doi.org/10.1108/SBM-11-2013-0040

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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