A commercialized Swedish sports model: A comparative analysis with Japan

ūüáłūüᙬ†¬†In Swedish

Björn Horgby & Christer Ericsson
√Ėrebro University


In this article, we discuss and compare the governance of Swedish and Japanese football clubs based on the three logics: the democratic logic, the logic of competition and the commercial logic. These logics influenced the activities of clubs, both male and female, and resulted in different types of actions and promoted various forms of power. We are discussing a governance model based on the company-controlled model.  In Sweden, there was a democratic model with various meeting and participation cultures in football clubs. In the corporate model, commercial logic governs the business. During the 1980s and 1990s, Swedish elite football clubsbegan to use this model of governance and football became increasingly connected to the business world. The power relations changed and shifted from democratic decision-making in the associations to the professional employees. Sometimes football activities are also conducted in a limited liability company. The Japanese model is a contrast.  Here, the road to football companies looks completely different. Japan has built on its own history with strong patriarchal companies that ran football clubs.  Later, the company J-League took command and governs locally based clubs on the principle that men’s football is a national community building project. While the logic of competition plays a major role in how Swedish men’s football is structured and developed, the Japanese league has deliberately worked to counteract that logic. So, when the commercial logic is decoupled from the logic of competition, the path to football companies will be different.

The article focuses two leading Swedish clubs, AIK from Stockholm and IFK Norrköping. We also compare previous research of leading clubs in Sweden and make an own comparison of two minor football clubs, with limited possibilities to convert their clubs into independent subsidiary companies.


Get the full-text article in Swedish!


BJ√ĖRN HORGBY¬†is professor emeritus in history, √Ėrebro University. Together with Christer Ericsson and Bill Sund he wrote Fotboll, kommersialisering, demokrati (Bokf√∂rlaget idrottsforum.org, Malm√∂ 2019). He has also written books about labour history, working class culture, rock music and industrial paternalism in Sweden and Japan together with Christer Ericsson and Shunji Ishihara (Faderliga f√∂retagare i Sverige och Japan, Stockholm 2016).

CHRISTER ERICSSON¬†is professor emeritus in sport sciences, √Ėrebro University. He has also written books about foundry industry, football and bandy in foundry villages, and paternalistic politics.


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