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The 24th EGOS Colloquium 2008  

General Theme


Postdoctoral pre-colloquium workshop

PhD pre-colloquium workshop

Roland Calori Prize

EGOS Best Paper Award
EGOS Best Student Paper Award

Organizing Committee

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Tourist Information


Sub-theme 16:

Modern Sport Organizations: A Field for Upsetting Research



Trevor Slack
University of Alberta (Canada)

Kari Steen-Johnsen
Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (Norway)

Hallgeir Gammelsæter
Molde University College (Norway)

Call for papers

Sport organizations and their outcomes and products have a strong presence in contemporary society. They attract large numbers of people as participants and spectators, and sporting events receive high coverage in the media. Sport performances invariably enthuse, and sports are generally defined as positive contributors to human society, community and integration.

Sport organizations may still be upsetting in several ways. The dominance of sport in the media; commercialism in sport; politics in sport; the greed of young athletes, their agents and their managers; and the misdeeds expressed in hooliganism, doping, eating disorder, corruption, abuse and misuse, excess spending and gambling are all examples of upsetting phenomena related to sports. In modern society the sporting act is not confined to the individual athlete and his or her coach. It is produced by sport organizations that operate at different levels, but that are yet connected. Interdependence between organizations is clearly visible in global structures like the IOC and FIFA and in mega-events like the Olympic Games. The upsetting aspects of sport may be related both to internal aspects of sport organizations and to the connections between sport organizations and organizations in other sectors of society.

Sociologists like Elias and Bourdieu have conceptualized sport as a specific and at least partly autonomous field. Notwithstanding their possible specificity, sport organizations are not set apart from the public and private spheres. On the contrary, most sport organizations are today intertwined with both the commercial and the public sphere, admittedly in different ways and to a varying extent in different regions of the world. This diversity gives sport organizations access to increased resources and means of diffusion. Yet a tension exists between serving diverse interests and maintaining autonomy and identity. Both the attraction of sport, in particular its integrative power, and it’s upsetting and unethical aspects that disintegrate people and communities, may be explained by these conflicting impacts. We suggest that the particularity of sport organizations as intersectional makes them apt for shedding light on upsetting aspects of contemporary organization and society.

A need clearly exists for organizational research that might critically question the different modus operandi of sport organizations, given the amount of money, resources and attention invested in sports. One of the mysteries of the field of organization studies is its relative negligence of both empirical and theoretical endeavours to address and understand sport organizations. Some important exceptions exist, notably the work on Canadian national sport organizations undertaken by Slack and Hinings and colleagues (e.g. Kikulis, Slack & Hinings, 1992; Amis, Slack & Hinings, 2004) and Stevens (2006). Recent effectiveness studies mostly coming up through sport management journals (e.g. Berman, Down & Hill, 2002; Wolfe, Hoeber & Babiak, 2002; Mauws, Mason & Foster, 2003; Smart & Wolfe, 2003; Skinner, Stewart & Edwards, 2004) and several studies on change in rugby organizations (e.g. O'Brien & Slack, 2004; Cunningham & Sagas, 2004), soccer clubs (Gammelsæter & Jakobsen, 2006) and ice-hockey (Fahlén, 2006) must also be mentioned. It is noteworthy that sport organizations come in different sizes and shapes, from small local voluntary organizations to large professional organizations. This should make them even more attractive to organization researchers as they can be used to test and extend organization theory.

Given the emergent character of the research field, we welcome a broad range of papers in terms of theoretical and empirical approaches. We encourage papers that deal with the upsetting aspects of sport organizations, and in particular papers that explore issues such as:

  • To what extent do organized sports at a national and international level produce upsetting structures, in terms of distribution of power and resources?
  • To what extent do organized sports produce upsetting practices?
  • How do sport organizations shape and cope with their identities in the face of upsetting events?
  • How do sport organizations resolve the conflicts that emanate from their identity of being autonomous yet increasingly (?) influenced by other spheres and organizations in society?
  • What is the role of the media in uncovering, disguising or producing the upsetting facets of sport organizations?
  • If sport constitutes a partly autonomous sector in society, how and to what extent do sport organizations reflect this in their management, structures and strategies?
  • What is the effect of government interventions in the sphere of sport organizations?
  • What is the political role of sport organizations in upsetting their market and institutional context?
  • How do sport organizations change as a result of internal or external forces?

Key readings

Amis, J., T. Slack & C.R. Hinings (2004): The Pace, Sequence, and Linearity of Radical Change. Academy of Management Journal, 47 (1): 15-39.

Berman, S., J. Down & C. Hill (2002): Tacit Knowledge as a Source of Competitive Advantage in the National Basketball Association. Academy of Management Journal, 45 (1): 13-31.

Cunningham, G.B. & M. and Sagas (2004): People Make the Difference: The Influence of the Coaching Staff's Human Capital and Diversity on Team Performance. European Sport Management Quarterly, 4: 3-21.

Kikulis, L.M., T. Slack & B. Hinings (1992): Sector-Specific Patterns of Organizational Design Change. Journal of Management Studies, 32, 27-100.

Meuws, M.K., D. Mason and W.M. Foster (2003): Thinking Strategically about Professional Sport. European Sport Management Quarterly, 3: 145-164.

O’Brien, D. & T. Slack (2004): Strategic Responses to Institutional Pressures for Commercialisation: A Case Study of an English Rugby Union Club. In: T. Slack (ed.): The Commercialisation of Sport. London: Routledge.

Skinner, J., B. Stewart & A. Edwards (2004): Interpreting Policy Language and Managing Organisational Change: The Case of Queensland Rugby Union. European Sport Management Quarterly, 4: 77-94.

Smart, D.L. & R.A. Wolfe (2003): The Contribution of Leadership and Human Resources to Organizational Success: An Empirical Assessment of Performance in Major League Baseball. European Sport Management Quarterly, 3: 165-188.

Stevens, J. (2006): The Canadian Hockey Association Merger and the Emergence of the Amateur Sport Enterprise. Journal of Sport Management, 20: 74-100.

Wolfe, R., L. Hoeber & K Babiak (2002): Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Sport Organizations: The Case of Intercollegiate Athletics. European Sport Management Quarterly, 32: 135-156.

About the convenors

Trevor Slack is currently a full professor at the University of Alberta. He has published in all the major sport and leisure journals. Trevor has also published in Organization Studies, The Journal of Management Studies, Human Relations, European Journal of Marketing, Academy of Management Journal and The Journal of Applied Behavioural Science. Several of his publications, namely books and chapters, have dealt with issues related to sport organizations. His research interests are in the areas of organizational change and the structuring of organizations.

Kari Steen-Johnsen holds a post doctoral scholarship at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. Her research interest is in the dynamics between civil society organizations and society. Most recent work deals within organizational change within national sport organizations with a particular view of the interplay between internal and external forces in producing change.

Hallgeir Gammelsæter is professor in Social Change, Organization and Management at Molde University College. He teaches organizational change and innovation as well as sport management, and is currently confining his research focus to the structure and change in top soccer organizations. He convened the open track 'Other Topics in Organization Theory' at the 22nd EGOS Colloquium in Bergen in 2006.