Does the (structural) context matter? Analysing individual and structural factors of members’ commitment to sports clubs

Schlesinger, Torsten; Nagel, Siegfried (February 2014). Does the (structural) context matter? Analysing individual and structural factors of members’ commitment to sports clubs. In: Sportwissenschaft in Bewegung – Bewegung in der Sportwissenschaft. Fribourg. 13.-14.02.2014.

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Over the last decades, Swiss sports clubs have lost their "monopoly" in the market for sports-related services and increasingly are in competition with other sports providers. For many sport clubs long-term membership cannot be seen as a matter of course. Current research on sports clubs in Switzerland – as well as for other European countries – confirms the increasing difficulties in achieving long-term member commitment. Looking at recent findings of the Swiss sport clubs report (Lamprecht, Fischer & Stamm, 2012), it can be noted, that a decrease in memberships does not equally affect all clubs. There are sports clubs – because of their specific situational and structural conditions – that have few problems with member fluctuation, while other clubs show considerable declines in membership. Therefore, a clear understanding of individual and structural factors that trigger and sustain member commitment would help sports clubs to tackle this problem more effectively. This situation poses the question: What are the individual and structural determinants that influence the tendency to continue or to quit the membership?

Existing research has extensively investigated the drivers of members’ commitment at an individual level. As commitment of members usually occurs within an organizational context, the characteristics of the organisation should be also considered. However, this context has been largely neglected in current research. This presentation addresses both the individual characteristics of members and the corresponding structural conditions of sports clubs resulting in a multi-level framework for the investigation of the factors of members’ commitment in sports clubs. The multilevel analysis grant a adequate handling of hierarchically structured data (e.g., Hox, 2002). The influences of both the individual and context level on the stability of memberships are estimated in multi-level models based on a sample of n = 1,434 sport club members from 36 sports clubs.

Results of these multi-level analyses indicate that commitment of members is not just an outcome of individual characteristics, such as strong identification with the club, positively perceived communication and cooperation, satisfaction with sports clubs’ offers, or voluntary engagement. It is also influenced by club-specific structural conditions: stable memberships are more probable in rural sports clubs, and in clubs that explicitly support sociability, whereas sporting-success oriented goals in clubs have a destabilizing effect.

The proposed multi-level framework and the multi-level analysis can open new perspectives for research concerning commitment of members to sports clubs and other topics and problems of sport organisation research, especially in assisting to understand individual behavior within organizational contexts.

Hox, J. J. (2002). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Lamprecht, M., Fischer, A., & Stamm, H.-P. (2012). Die Schweizer Sportvereine – Strukturen, Leistungen, Herausforderungen. Zurich: Seismo.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Schlesinger, Torsten and Nagel, Siegfried


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment




Torsten Schlesinger

Date Deposited:

31 Mar 2015 09:06

Last Modified:

24 Apr 2015 00:54




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