A much needed and very welcome contribution to balance the North American dominance in European sport management syllabuses

Hans Lundberg
Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden

Ulrik Wagner, Rasmus K. Storm & Klaus Nielsen
When Sport Meets Business: Capabilities, Challenges, Critiques
242 pages, paperback.
London: Sage Publications 2017
ISBN 978-1-4739-4805-1

Sage has been active within sport management for some time, but has largely been focused on North American perspectives and mostly used research and researchers from the US and Canada in previous sport management publications. The distinct European perspectives and the focus on European research and researchers in When Sport Meets Business: Capabilities, Challenges, Critiques edited by Ulrik Wagner, Rasmus K. Storm and Klaus Nielsen is therefore a welcome and valuable contribution. It is an anthology with 15 chapters by 23 authors organised in four themes (the new sport environment, sport marketing and media, sport and finance, sporting events). The authors are at the time of publication active in nine different countries (Germany 6, UK 4, France 3, Denmark 3, Belgium 2, Canada 2, Norway 1, The Netherlands 1, New Zealand 1), and their disciplinary background is mainly (as should be, given the topic) in various business administration/sport management disciplines (13 researchers) and economics/sport economics (5 researchers), with sport science (3 researchers), sport sociology (1 researcher) and social anthropology (1 researcher) broadening the business and economy perspectives somewhat. All in all, in its structural set-up the book delivers what it promises: it is broad enough country-wise/researcher background-wise to say something about “the European” and it is topically focused enough to contribute to the specifics in the sport/business interface.

I have reviewed many “sport-and-business” books for idrottsforum.org over the years, and my review here is done with these contributions (see a sample here) as a backdrop. In my understanding, the main positive takeaways from this anthology are the following:

To a larger extent than its predecessors, it invites data, researchers and research from other sports and sport contexts than “the usual suspects” (football, arena sport in general, major events like the Olympics). This is essential, as the dominance of “the usual suspects” is leaning towards the absurd in previous publications in this genre. In particular, I have with great joy read fine chapters on subjects like the development of the sporting goods and sports equipment industry (by Anna Gerke & Maureen Benson-Rea); a theoretically well informed chapter on globalisation vs. the local/national applied to sport talent development (by Sine Agergaard); a fine take on a classical sport sociology issue (commodification and commercialization of elite athletes) based on an individual combat sport (contemporary boxing, the Klitschkos brothers from Ukraine/Germany) rather than another Messi and Ronaldo analysis (by Johannes Orlowski, Manuel Herter & Pamela Wicker); a crisp and clear statistically underpinned chapter on the long-term development of the business of running (by Koen Breedveld & Jeroen Scheerder); a most welcome introduction to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) applied to sports and based on the French Tennis Federation as case (by Mathieu Djaballah); and an urgently needed critical take on issues of corruption and (mis)governance of sport (by Arnout Geeraert). Contributions like these blow “fresh air” into a genre flooded with too much of the same, as they focus on underrepresented sports, insufficiently covered subjects, and not exactly overused theories.

The book’s subtitle more or less completely disappears as the book unfolds; there is no introduction to “capabilities, challenges, critiques”, nor is there a summing-up reflecting these concepts at the end.

The book is free from the naïve realism and the prescriptive style of writing underlying so much of the North American sport management genre. It clocks in on just above 15 pages per chapter in average. This keeps the total at a manageable size (242 pages), which in turn increases accessibility and thereby holds the promise of actually being read by its target audience (students).

All chapters have cases and it is a bit of trick to make interesting cases on quite limited space. In most chapters, authors are able to perform this trick, which is quite an achievement, as it is not easy to do. I miss more elaborated discussion points or questions to address in most cases, though.

The good qualities of the anthology notwithstanding, there is room for improvements, and, I would like to highlight the following:

The thematic organisation is very conventional (the new sport environment, sport marketing and media, sport and finance, sporting events) and does little to push the field forward. Take for instance the strongest section in my reading, the first, “the new sport environment”. Introducing this with the somewhat lame “yes, sport has undergone rapid commercialisation” and “it has some negative effects” is not doing justice to the quality of the chapters in the section. Sports as entertainment, professional sports and sports celebrities are at the absolute forefront of hyper-capitalism and prosumtion of high-octane peak experiences, and thereby generate the most magical and the most disgusting sides of extreme commercialisation available. The editors should try to capture this by employing a more inviting thematic organisation and style of writing in next edition.

The book’s subtitle more or less completely disappears as the book unfolds; there is no introduction to “capabilities, challenges, critiques”, nor is there a summing-up reflecting these concepts at the end. Chapter 2 has a little something on capabilities, and challenges are many in sports but not very much written about, and a some chapters are more critically oriented than others. It looks more like a publisher’s sale pitch than the three key concepts I thought would be the driving force throughout the book.

Having in mind my first example of positive takeaways (above) – that the book invites data, researchers and research from new sports and sporting contexts – “the usual suspects” are still all too present, in my reading – and not only in this book but in books like these since the early 2000s. I am looking forward to the first ever sport-meets-business book that is void of football and the Olympics.

The editors have done a fine job in all aspects except the hardest one; to establish the theoretical and conceptual frame for the book and to wrap it up at the end. The introduction is in place, yes, but it only provides us with the usual standard phrases and a descriptive introduction of the various chapters. And at the end of the book we get – nothing. The last chapter of the last of the four themes just ends, and then comes the index. I very much look forward to a concentrated and detailed wrap-up in the next edition – and why not utilize the key subtitle concepts – capabilities, challenges, critiques – for that purpose?

In sum, a much needed and very welcome contribution to replace the far too many North American textbooks in European sport management syllabuses.

Copyright © Hans Lundberg 2017


Table of Content

Rasmus K. Storm, Ulrik Wagner, Klaus Nielsen
1: When Sport Meets Business: A Brief Introduction
Anna Gerke, Maureen Benson-Rea
2: The Expansion of the Sport Goods Industry
Sine Agergaard
3: When Globalisation and Migration Meet National and Local Talent Development
Johannes Orlowski, Manuel Herter, Pamela Wicker
4: Commodification and Commercialization of Elite Athletes
Koen Breedweld, Jeroen Scheerder
5: The Business of Running
Ulrik Wagner, Thorsten Dum
6: The Growth of Commercial Sponsorship
Harry Arne Solberg
7: The Battle for Media Rights in European Club Football
Simon Chadwick, Nicholas Burton, Cheri Bradish
8: Ambush Marketing in Sport
Bastian Popp, Herbert Woratschek
9: Sport, Social Media and Online Communities
Mathieu Djaballah
10: Corporate Social Responsibility in Sport
Klaus Nielsen, Rasmus K. Storm
11: Profits, Championships and Budget Constraints in European Professional Sport
Jan Pieper
12: Financial Fair Play in European Football
Arnout Geeraert, Jens Sejer Andersen
13: Corruption and the Governance of Sport
Larissa Davies
Chapter 14: Sustainable Urban Legacies of Hosting the Olympic Games
Wladimir Andreff
Chapter 15: The Cost of Hosting International Sports Events


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