Causes, forms and consequences of professionalization in Swiss national sport federations

Ruoranen, Kaisa Reetta (2018). Causes, forms and consequences of professionalization in Swiss national sport federations. (Dissertation, Universität Bern, Philosophisch-humanwissenschaftliche Fakultät)

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This thesis explores causes, forms and consequences of professionalization in Swiss national sport federations (NSF) – a phenomenon that has been observed in the last number of decades as NSFs face new societal challenges. The community with its diverse stakeholders – from members to financial backers to political institutions – expect more from NSFs than their former organizational structures and activities can facilitate. Following organizational adaptations, NSFs are transforming from traditional amateur pastime form of organization toward more businesslike entities.
The first aim of the thesis was to propose a framework for analysing professionalization in NSFs by exploring practitioners’ perceptions of professionalization and synthetizing those with the analytical concepts used by scholars. Despite attributes that – similar to previous literature – describe businesslike organizations, the practitioners primarily perceived professionalization to be a matter of “professional” attitude that transforms into federation culture. The conceptual framework that we developed may be used for studying various forms of professionalization in NSFs.
To study causes for professionalization in Swiss NSFs, a multiple-case study was conducted with seven Swiss NSFs. Causes for professionalization were similar across the NSFs. Prominent triggers were conflicts in the board, ambiguous decision-making competences and initiatives taken by key persons, e.g. CEOs. Our analysis revealed NSF-specific factors, such as popularity and attitudes of individuals toward professionalization, that have an impact on the continuity of professionalization process once it has been initiated. We propose that uncertainty and competing for financial resources have led some NSFs to mimic NSFs, which they deem successful. Reciprocity of NSF-endogenous and external causes for professionalization deserve further consideration in future studies.
Intended and unintended consequences of professionalization in Swiss NSFs were explored by means of a case study of a Swiss NSF. The autonomy, that Swiss sport policy allows to the NSFs, makes Swiss NSFs interesting for studying consequences of professionalization. Autonomous federations may have several options to avoid negative consequences of their professionalization strategies. Beside positive and intended consequences of professionalization in terms of, for example, transparency and increased publicity, the case in our study faced new challenges that emerged from the adaptations. Especially, the needs and goals of its member clubs have been disregarded as the NSF has focused on marketing and other professionalization strategies. Also, emphasis on the entertainment impact have exceeded clubs’ capacities.
This thesis is a first step towards understanding professionalization processes in Swiss NSFs. Apart from the empirical knowledge, the studies contribute to approaches of reciprocal relations between social action and structure, as well as to institutional theories in the field of sport. We encourage similar approaches in other countries for understanding the meaning of autonomy for professionalization that is given to Swiss NSFs.

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW)

UniBE Contributor:

Ruoranen, Kaisa Reetta, Nagel, Siegfried


700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment




Igor Peter Hammer

Date Deposited:

18 Dec 2018 11:42

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:23



Additional Information:

e-Dissertation (edbe)




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