Sport business and management research in the twenty-first century: heading from west to east?

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 16 March 2012


Chadwick, S. (2012), "Sport business and management research in the twenty-first century: heading from west to east?", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 2 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Sport business and management research in the twenty-first century: heading from west to east?

Article Type: Editorial From: Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1.

If one looks back to the nineteenth century, the history of sport during this era was one of European pre-eminence. During this era, sports such as football developed through custom and practice, and were later codified to become the basis of sports that are stilled played today. Several sporting mega-events, like cycling's Tour de France, were also a product of the era, and many are still staged even today. The way in which sport in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries emerged, effectively enforced distinctive modes of research and analysis. Studies often stressed the historic, socio-cultural, and philosophical foundations of sport, with disciplines such as sociology prospering as vehicles through which contemporary sporting phenomena could be examined.

As the twentieth century progressed, a North American model of sport emerged, initially paralleling the European model. Latterly, this model appeared to transcend the European model leading to the development of a business and managerial focus on sport. Underpinned by strategic intent and commercial purpose sport in North America, rather than reflecting custom and practice, was reflected in operating considerations such as the sale of rights, and the notion of fans as customers. It is within such a tradition that this journal emerged, reflecting a prevailing paradigm that pervades across many sports (but which still has to have a profound or meaningful impact on others).

Yet while some sports, and the organisations within them, continue to grapple with the ramifications of sport's twentieth century model, a new model appears to be emerging. Some might be surprised by the emergence of this model, while some may dismiss it as a mirage rather than a meaningful reality. However, I predict that the twenty-first century will see the emergence and eventual dominance of an Asian model of sport. This will have serious ramifications for journals such as this publication, but also for the areas of sport in which we engage in research, and also in terms of the methodologies, tools, and techniques employed by researchers.

We already have ample evidence that this is happening: for instance, the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was notable not just for the financial commitment of the Chinese government to the event, but also for the way in which a sporting mega-event became the focal point for the re-branding and symbolic re-birth of a nation. More recently, Qatar has won the right to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup, an achievement that signifies how important the Asian model is becoming.

The Qatari experience is an interesting one: just as some countries may seek to invest in manufacturing, electronics, or tourism as the basis for building and sustaining economic activity, so the Qatari government has adopted sport as a central strategic pillar. By investing in this way, Qatar is creating foundations for the development of civic infrastructure such as roads, houses, shops, and industrial areas. In parallel, sport is simultaneously being used to boost participation in sport amongst the population, improve health and lifestyles, promote social cohesion, enable the generation of country branding opportunities, and provide the basis for international networking and political influence. There is also the intention too that the new and emerging Asian model of sport will produce the kind of elite athletes that could propel Asian countries to the top of leader boards across the sporting world. The nature and scale of state intervention in sport does not, nevertheless, preclude the continuing global commercial development of sport, and so we are witnessing the on-going development of issues in the business and management of sport. Indeed, Qatar's first sport hedge fund has recently been set-up, with the purpose of analysing global sporting investment opportunities.

The twenty-first century is thus witnessing the emergence of a new sporting model, and this will inevitably impact upon the nature, focus, and delivery of sport research in the years to come. What the specific impacts will be is currently difficult to precisely identify, but given the nexus of different goals and the multi-institutional nature of emerging developments, one should expect to see network perspectives of sport continue to develop and flourish. Moreover, studies emphasising the embedded context of relationships in sport are also likely to enjoy some degree of prominence. At the same time, research undertaken from various stakeholder perspectives is likely, presumably accompanied by examinations of how the needs and expectations of these stakeholders are reconciled. One should also expect to see associated developments in methodology; as the USA has dominated sport, so too has research built upon a North American positivist tradition. One suspects that this tradition will continue to prevail for some time yet, especially given the global appetite for quantitative data. If one considers issues in measuring, for example, the intangible impact of sporting investments on country brands, the further importance of quantitative data analysis should not be under-estimated. However, such is the nature of an activity such as country branding, that qualitative and mixed-method approaches to research should not be underestimated.

And so, as we move deeper into the twenty-first century, emerging trends already indicate that this will be a very different sporting century to those we have encountered over the last 200 years. Whether these changes lead to on-field successes at major sporting events remains a moot point. However, off the field, it is anticipated that Asia and its sporting model will fundamentally change the way in which we observe, research, and analyse sport in the coming years.

A note on this edition

This edition of the journal brings together five papers, which ideally represent the breadth and scope of the journal's coverage. It contains studies undertaken from the perspectives of human resource management, economics, performance analytics, social media, and participation, while at the same time drawing from practices in sports such as football and golf.

Bradbury and Forsyth in their paper “You’re in, you’re out: selection practices of coaches” investigate the selection procedures of athletics coaches. In this paper, the authors address the issue of how HRM selection practices were utilised and, in cases where they were not, how recruitment practices could have been undertaken in a more effective manner. The findings make for interesting reading, especially in the way they reinforce the scope of this journal. That is, they highlight a clear need for sport managers to apply established business and management techniques in a sporting context.

In spite of European football's continuing pre-eminence, many commentators have already identified several inherent problems in the industry. This is a theme pick up on by Storm, who examines the case for regulating the sport in his paper “The need of regulating professional soccer in Europe: a soft budget constraint approach argument”. Set in the context of on-going losses incurred by Europe's top clubs, Storm argues that well-managed clubs in football are effectively punished for their efficiency by clubs that incur huge losses. As such, the central theme of this paper is that regulatory interventions should be made into the industry in order to ensure that financial efficiency is not penalised.

The Moneyball phenomenon is a development in sport, which has roots both in stock market transactions and in data-driven approaches to business. Thus far, the application of such analytics in has been more commonly associated with sports like baseball. In the paper “Mapping statistics to success on the PGA Tour – insights from the use of a single metric”, Sen extends the application of performance data analysis into golf. Although the sport provides a wide array of statistics, no single measure has successfully been able to predict a player's success during a season, either in terms of earnings per tournament or weighted average scores. As such, the paper presents a metric that attempts to predict annual player rankings based on these two criteria. Results indicate that average annual performance on the greens, the mix of tournaments played, and performance consistency have a significant impact on chances of success in golf.

The final two papers address a common theme: sports participation. While the commonality between the two papers is clear, both address the issue of participation from two different angles. Wicker, Hallmann, and Breuer's paper “Micro and macro level determinants of sport participation” sets out to explore how combinations of socio-demographic (or micro-level) factors and infrastructural (or macro-level) factors influence participation in sport. The central finding of the study of the study is that the availability of infrastructure such as parks and swimming pools is a major driver underpinning peoples’ decisions to participate in sport. In addition, the paper shows that, in situations where there is poor private-sector provision of sports facilities, the not-for-profit sector has an important role to play in delivering facilities.

The paper “Understanding adolescent sport participation through online social media” by O’Reilly, Berger, Hernandez, Parent, and Seguin, adopts a different approach to that of Wicker et al. by examining how social media can be utilised in a way that influences socially desirable behaviours. Using netnography, the authors set out to understand the nature of adolescent behaviour in the online marketplace, and the nature of adolescent sport behaviour as revealed through activity in online social forums. In this regard, the netnographic analysis illustrates how far removed the idea of participating in sport for health outcomes is in typical youth conversations. Given the growing use and importance of social media, this has clear implications for a range of activities from how online platforms are utilised by sport organisations, through to how health messages are formulated and communicated to relevant target audiences.

Simon Chadwick