Forms and consequences of professionalization in international sport federations: between rationalization and political reality

Clausen, Jospehine; Bayle, Emmanuel; Giauque, David; Ruoranen, Kaisa; Klenk, Christoffer; Schlesinger, Torsten; Lang, Grazia; Nagel, Siegfried (30 August 2016). Forms and consequences of professionalization in international sport federations: between rationalization and political reality. In: The 24th EASM Conference: Memories and identities in sport management in Europe. Book of Abstracts (p. 45). European Association of Sportmanagement

Forms and consequences of professionalization in international sport federations between rationalization and political reality.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (157kB) | Preview

Aim of abstract/paper - research question
Over the last 30 years, the activities of international sport
federations (ISF) have changed drastically from simply being
the governing body, making and supervises international rules,
to being a global actor at multiple levels, including the
organisation of major events, commercialization of rights and
development of and through their sport. By evolving from mainly
administrative and volunteer-run organisations to more
professionalized structures with an increased business focus,
different forms of professionalization have emerged. To
distinguish these forms, researchers need to analyse the
federation’s internal situation (e.g. professionalization of
individuals, structures and procedures, activities) as well as
external factors (e.g. political factors such as regulatory
requirements, economic factors such as the national economy,
social factors such as image of the organisation and technology
factors such as information and communication). This paper
tries to elucidate the different forms of professionalization, and
the respective consequences that these forms may entail,
especially with regard to governance and strategic
Theoretical background/literature review
Though previous research has focused on organisational
change in national federations and clubs, the
professionalization of ISF has received very little attention.
Organisational change, new institutionalism and strategic
choice theory appear to be appropriate theoretical approaches
to remedy this lack. Organisational change encompasses
increasing rationalization of structures and procedures due to
the gradual replacement of volunteers by professionals
(Thibault, Slack, & Hinings, 1991), and the role of individual key
actors as accelerators or decelerators of change in sport
federations. The new institutionalism perspective allows us to
look at the federations’ organisational context, which, in the
course of business-orientation and commercialization, is
becoming more and more influenced by political, economic and
regulatory aspects, inevitably impacting on their decisions and
actions (Greenwood & Hinings, 1996). In this field of constantly
changing interactions and interdependencies, federations try to
achieve stability by creating strategic alliances. The strategic choice theory will therefore be applied, implying dynamic
processes at the external level as much as choices of individual
key actors or groups (Miles, Snow, Meyer, & Coleman, 1978).
Methodology, research design and data analysis
The conceptual framework of Nagel et al. (Nagel, Schlesinger,
Bayle, & Giauque, 2015) on causes, forms and consequences
of professionalization of sport federations was employed.
Focussing on the period 1990-2015, forms were examined by
looking at three dimensions: activities (diversification, strategic
planning), individuals (profiles of paid staff) and structures and
processes (formalization, specialization). The analysis of
consequences focussed on governance changes and aspects
of leadership at the sport federation level, their impact on
member federations and expectations of and relationships with
external stakeholders. A two-tier approach was chosen: an
exploratory study, nine case studies. Data collection started in
September 2014 and comprises multiple sources of evidence.
To gather in-depth information from within seven international
sport federations, semi-structured interviews (n=25) with staff
members from different hierarchical levels and functions were
conducted. Information from interviews was triangulated with
federations’ internal documents (annual reports, organisation
charts, statutes), external documents (IOC evaluation criteria,
Agenda 2020), and relevant literature.
Results, discussion and implications/conclusions
Our analysis of forms and consequences of professionalization
allowed us to distinguish specific adaptation configurations.
These show strong resemblance with the typology of Miles and
Snow (1978). Furthermore, an increasingly politicized
environment induces new challenges. In this context, the role of
individual key actors and their leadership styles (Bayle, 2001),
as well as political stability play a crucial role in ISF strategic
management, influencing notably the intensity and speed of
organisational changes. Based on leaders’ ability to manage
increasingly intricate political, economic and social aspects, ISF
professionalize at different speeds.

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:

Bayle, Emmanuel, Ruoranen, Kaisa Reetta, Klenk, Christoffer, Schlesinger, Torsten, Lang, Grazia, Nagel, Siegfried


700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 350 Public administration & military science
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology


European Association of Sportmanagement




Kaisa Reetta Ruoranen

Date Deposited:

31 Jan 2017 13:18

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:01

Uncontrolled Keywords:

international sport federations; professionalization; adaptation configurations




Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback