Molde University College
Reading Sport Governance: International Case Studies is a mixed experience. It is a volume that purports to address international best practice of sport governance, but when the book comprises in-depth case studies of governance policy and practice across 15 countries and all continents, is hard to take away what is really best practice. This is even more so because the editors are not of much help (unless you disregard the case studies). On the contrary, in their opening chapter on “Current issues in modern sport governance”, the approach is narrow and normative and far from reflecting on or anticipating the many case studies contributed by contributing authors. Contrary to the title of the chapter, the editors confine their treatment of governance to board issues.
This contrasts the country/region contributions, which more generally address the systems of governance in the specific country/region as well as the governance of selected sports: American football in the USA; cricket in Australia; ringette in Canada; pentathlon in Russia; cycling in South Africa; basketball in China; volleyball in Brazil; football (soccer) in Scandinavia and Cyprus; Gaelic athletics in Ireland; and rugby in New Zealand. Moreover, the chapters on the UK, Greece and the Middle East deal with an anonymized national governing body, the PAOK sport club, and the national Olympic Committee of Iraq respectively, while John Forster provides an add-on on “Global Sport Organizations”. All chapters address governance issues, but much effort has not been made to summarize what these issues are and to explore how they relate to each other. So the book is hardly expanding theory.
The book is being promoted as a textbook and essential reading for courses in sport management, sport policy, sport development, sport administration or sport organizations. On the positive side, there are many intriguing case studies in the book, which might defend a place on the reading list of courses addressing governance in international sports. For instance, the chapter on the US is perhaps the best introduction to American sport I have seen; whilst the one on the Middle East provides an intriguing and shocking look into how political regimes can abuse and terrorize athletes, using fear management to enhance performance. Some chapters are based on empirical studies and provides fresh insights (e.g. Scandinavia and the UK), whilst others are mere descriptive historical accounts that can be instructive in teaching, although I anticipate that the language sometimes will represent an obstacle for many students. For example, students of sport governance in China will have to grapple with the following abbreviations: PCACSF, CYL, ACSF, CCP, SPCSC, LDS, PLA, GASC, CBA, FIBA, CBMC, WCBA, CBAPL, and CBAPLC. A challenge to your memory, really.
On the negative side, there is a lack of cohesion, in particular between the framework presented by editors and the case study contributions. Above I mentioned the narrow board centred approach provided in chapter 1, which far from captures the variety of the case chapters, and unfortunately, I find little in the final contribution by the editors that ameliorates the overall assessment. Strangely, the summary commences “This chapter concludes this book Sport Governance: International case studies, by describing why the dominant discourse and approach to sport today is a business one” (p. 277). While this might be true, no evidence whatsoever is presented that confirms it, and neither is any discussion of how to measure it and what the rivalling approaches are. It’s evident already in the opening chapter that this is not only the dominant approach but also the good approach in the editors’ minds. Subsequently, in the final chapter the editors, rather than capitalizing on the many case contributions in the book, use the governance structure of New Zealand Cricket (!) “to portray what is largely being acknowledged as best practice within the field of contemporary sport governance” (p. 278). Because this capitalist or perhaps Anglo-Saxon centred bias inhibits what could have been an exciting exploration of sport governance across the world, I would not recommend the complete book to my students. I would not consider using the book as a course textbook. However, I recommend those that are looking for good case studies to search among the chapters 2-17.
Copyright @ Hallgeir Gammelsæter 2015