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Corruption: a big threat to sport, a tremendous opportunity for researchers
Article Type: Editorial From: Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3.
Recently, there has been a marked increase in the number of reported cases of corruption in international sport, including the large-scale investigation by Europol in to the alleged fixing of 380 football matches across Europe, the US Postal doping investigation described by USADA as the most “sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme ever seen in sport” and the resignation of former AFC President Mohamed bin Hamman amid allegations of bribery and other corrupt activities.
Dictionary definitions of corruption emphasize notions of dishonesty, illegality, misuse of authority, and acting in order to gain some form of advantage. In sport, Maennig (2005) has identified are two forms of corruption – “competition corruption” and “management corruption”. Management corruption is most commonly associated with problems in the governance, organization and/or management of sporting organizations. As Jennings (2007) has noted, such forms of corruption can be wide ranging, embracing practices like bribes, illegal payments, and cronyism, but normally does not directly impact upon the outcome of sporting contests. Competition corruption, on the other hand, is defined by Gorse and Chadwick (2010, p. 42) as “any illegal, immoral or unethical activity that attempts to deliberately distort the outcome of the sporting contest (or an element within the contest) for the personal material gain of one or more parties involved in the activity” and includes activities such as doping, tanking, match fixing (where the outcome of the sporting contest is fixed), and spot fixing (where one or more elements of the sporting contest of fixed at a specific point in time, e.g. the first throw-in during a game).
Governments, governing bodies, federations, leagues, and competitions are all responding to the growing threat of corruption. The European Union has recently awarded funding to organizations such as Transparency International and the Deutscher Fussball Bund to carry out research in this area. While in cricket, the authorities have introduced compulsory training for players to make them aware of the dangers of match-fixing and how they should deal with such threats. Several companies have also now begun to respond to the problems associated with corruption. Dutch bank ING terminated its sponsorship of the Renault F1 team as a result of Crashgate; sportswear manufacturer Skins helped instigate the “Change Cycling Now” movement in response to doping; and Emirates airline demanded evidence from FIFA, as to them measures in place to eradicate corruption before extending their sponsorship of the World Cup.
As the threat, seriousness of implication and awareness of corruption grow, so too do the research opportunities open to the sport, business and management academic community. At the very heart of the phenomenon is how we define corruption. A scan of the literature reveals very little in the way of either definitions or the conceptualization of corruption in sport. As the brief overview above implies, the nature of sport corruption is both more complex than many realize and demanding of much more rigorous analysis than it has received thus far. Alongside such analyses, an understanding of the consequences of corruption and how to manage within and around them warrants further investigation. This raises a whole series of issues for the full range of business and management academics from risk managers to human resource managers and marketers.
On a personal note, it is in the latter area that there have been some particularly interesting developments. Corruption in sport can have an impact upon the companies and brands that are associated with it. The relationship between a sport organization and a sponsor is one example of such an association. As the cases of ING, Skins, and Emirates Airlines illustrate, there are growing concerns about the damage that corruption can have upon an associated brand. This damage may include negative consumer brand, perceptions of and associations with the sponsor; adverse image transfer from the corrupting property to the sponsor; and consumer boycotts of products produced by the sponsor of a corrupt property. As a result, we are witnessing the emergence of what might be called “market-driven” morality, whereby sponsors, commercial partners and others are driving the response to corruption by threatening to withdraw funding or else are making stark positioning statements about their anti-corruption stances. The motives, dynamics, and management of such actions are all important issues that would make for valuable research studies. At the same time, the role of the consumer (and the market), in terms of invoking commercial partner responses, serving as moderators of corruption in sport, and of specific responses by consumers to sponsors associated with corrupt properties, would all instigate a debate that currently does not exist.
In the context of a growing problem, allied to a general absence of literature in the field of sport business management, one therefore hopes that we will witness a growth in research in the areas noted above, and indeed in other areas too. Indeed, one also hope that this journal can become an important outlet for such research studies.
Notes on papers in this edition
Watson in his study on umpire bias in Australian football clarifies potentially conflicting results from two prior studies examining the “home advantage”, and possible “umpire bias”, in the Australian Football League (AFL). This study seeks to clarify potentially conflicting results from two prior studies examining the “home advantage”, and possible “umpire bias”, in the AFL. Using categorical regression analysis, and controlling for team ability, the number of free kicks awarded to/against each AFL team during the home and away season of 2006 are investigated. The findings support previous research suggesting home teams generally win more often and receive more favourable treatment from umpires. However, for games involving both a Victorian and a non-Victorian team there is clear evidence of “umpire bias” (beyond the traditional “home advantage”) operating against non-Victorian teams. The findings also suggest that the AFL should seriously consider appointing neutral umpires for all games (particularly those involving a Victorian and non-Victorian team) and establishing an independent panel to oversee the development and selection of AFL umpires.
Hyatt, Sutton, Foster, and McConnell examine fan involvement in a professional sport team's decision making. In an era where a growing segment of fantasy league participating and video game playing sport consumers has become more interested in managing individual major league players than in following the fortunes of actual major league teams, North American major league attendance is dropping. The authors argue that team management could keep their attention, strengthen the team-fan bond, and increase attendance and overall revenue, by giving their fans input into decisions related to the team's on-field, on-court, or on-ice management. The paper chronicles the rise of fantasy sport and sport video game participation and argues that a new breed of sport consumer is emerging that values managing sport over spectating. Previous attempts by teams to give fans input into management decisions are outlined and critiqued. It is suggested that teams wishing to increase the team identification and attendance frequency of these management-centric consumers should use technology to establish a platform whereby dues-paying members vote on team-related management issues. Utilizing a members-only webpage for some votes will encourage the growth of a geographically diverse fan base, while utilizing in-stadium hand-held wireless technology for other votes will encourage game attendance. This paper has value to marketers of professional sport who are constantly searching for ways to increase fan identification and sell tickets. It also has value to sport fan academics by suggesting that traditional conceptualizations of the team-fan bond may be becoming outdated in an era where a new generation of sport consumers is becoming increasingly player-focused and management centric.
Blumrodt, Desbordes, and Bodin investigate professional football clubs and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The subject of CSR is nowadays widely discussed, as is its relevance to the sport entertainment industry. The objective of the paper is to investigate CSR actions in the professional European football league and its impact on clubs’ brand image. The first part of the research discusses some particular points of the world's biggest sport entertainment, which is soccer. Then a definition of the meaning of CSR for this particular sector will be outlined. The CSR values adopted by sport clubs are observed in first division football in France. This approach has been combined with brand theories. The specific research protocol evaluates consumers’ perceptions. The method employed developed measures and analyses the impact of CSR commitment on spectators’ brand perception. In linking CSR to brand image, two managerial viewpoints are discussed. CSR is synonymous with a company's social and ethical commitment. Brand theories outline the nature of brand equity. The authors then apply these two complementary considerations to professional football clubs and they argue that Keller's model (1993) of customer-based brand equity has to be reconsidered for football clubs. The specific research protocol evaluates consumers’ perceptions. The method which is developed measures and analyses the impact of CSR commitment on spectators’ brand perception. In linking CSR to brand image, two managerial viewpoints are discussed. CSR is synonymous with a company's social and ethical commitment. Brand theories outline the nature of brand equity. We apply these two complementary considerations to professional football clubs and argue that Keller's model (1993) of customer-based brand equity has to be reconsidered for football clubs.
Mao and Zhang assess the impact of consumer involvement, emotions, and attitude towards Beijing Olympic Games on the branding effectiveness of event sponsors. Sponsorship has undeniably become one of the fastest growing global marketing practices. Business corporations seek sponsorship opportunities to actualize their overall organizational objectives, marketing goals, and promotional strategies, particularly to enhance brand equity. The study examines the influence of consumers’ involvement, emotions, and attitude towards Beijing Olympic Games on the branding effects of the event. Participants (n=556) were university students in China who had watched at least some coverage of Beijing Olympic Games. Two duplicate versions of a questionnaire were formulated and respondents were randomly selected to evaluate perceived branding effects of Beijing Olympic Games to be sponsored by two brands – Li-Ning and Nongfu Spring. An analysis of the structural model, relating brand loyalty, perceived quality, and brand association/awareness to respondent's involvement, emotional responses, and attitude towards the event, reveals that the proposed model fit the data well (CFI=0.96, TLI=0.98, RMSEA=0.048, WRMR=0.93). The findings reveal that branding effects were positively associated with consumer's attitude towards the sponsored event, which was partially determined by consumer's involvement and emotions.
Chard, Chris, Hyatt, and Foster examine assets and obstacles in OUA hockey from the coaches’ perspective. The passion of Canadians for ice hockey is well documented; however, university teams in Canada are routinely ignored by consumers and the media. The authors’ goal was to better understand the context in which Ontario university hockey struggles and to address the theoretical question of how best to examine and evaluate the problems of sport-specific organizations. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 15 of the 19 (77 per cent) OUA hockey coaches during the 2010/2011 hockey season. The interview guide was drawn from the VDF elements and enabled the researchers to understand not-for-profit organizational assets, including physical, financial, employee/supplier, customer, and organizational. The study offers empirical insights about the assets and obstacles facing the OUA hockey league and its teams. For example, players, coaches, affiliation with universities, and the hockey product are noted assets. Obstacles for strategic growth include arenas, suppliers, media attention, financial sustainability, parity with other leagues in Canada, and leadership. The VDF proved a useful foil to suggest that we need something that more accurately represents sport management-specific situations. The paper provides an approach towards making a more generalizable not-for-profit sport model that could help explain the success (or lack of success) of such organizations.
Gorse, S. and Chadwick, S. (2010), “Conceptualising corruption in sport: implications for sponsorship programmes”, European Business Review, July/August, pp. 40-45
Jennings, A. (2007), Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals, Harper Sport, London
Keller, K.L. (1993), “Conceptualizing, measuring and managing customer-based brand equity”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 1, pp. 1-22
Maennig, W. (2005), “Corruption in international sports and sport management: forms, tendencies, extent and countermeasures”, European Sport Management Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 187-225