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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport eTheses
Title: "Free sports": organizational evolution from participatory activities to Olympic sports
Authors: Batuev, Mikhail
Supervisor(s): Robinson, Leigh
Morrow, Stephen
Keywords: free sport
Issue Date: Oct-2015
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Free sports are the phenomena that have rapidly developed from lifestyle activities to professional competitive sports over the last several decades. Known for distinctive counter-culture values, many popular free sports, such as snowboarding or BMX, have recently become largely commercialized and experienced significant organizational change. The main research question of this study is how free sports have organizationally evolved over time. This thesis focuses on patterns and mechanisms of structural change and evolution of values of these sports. The research utilized a multiple case qualitative methodology and is presented as a cross-case study of three international sports: competitive snowboarding, competitive skateboarding, and sport climbing. A review of existing literature identified the theory of new institutionalism as being particularly relevant to this study and thus, supplemented by resource-dependence theory, this forms the theoretical framework for this research. This study found that as a result of organizational evolution, informal organizational arrangements, which were historically typical for free sports, have not been uniformly replaced by formalized structural arrangements of mainstream sports. In addition, the organizational fields of these free sports are found to have adopted multiple logics, such as commercial, competitive, and traditional free sport logics. The notion of cultural legitimacy of international sport organizations appears to be central to explaining organizational evolution of free sports. As conflicts revolving over the “ownership” of international sports and the practice of “umbrella” governance are found to be of great concern in free sports, it is the relationship between cultural and regulatory legitimacy that these issues are addressed through. Finally, it is found that multiple power/dependence relationships existing in organizational fields of free sports are largely underpinned by commercial interests and strategies of the Olympic movement. In terms of contribution to theoretical knowledge, this study extends previous applications of institutional and resource-dependence theories to free sports and reveals that the process of institutionalization of sports does not necessarily lead to change of values in macro perspective. However, it can facilitate and foster a separation between two different “versions” of the same sports: competitive sports and traditional sports. This study contributes to wider practical sport management knowledge by raising a question of sustainability of culturally legitimate but unconventional international sport organizations in the global sport business. Another implication of this study is challenging the IOC as a source of regulatory legitimacy for sports and questioning the belief that all sports strive for the Olympic Games, which is taken for granted as the ultimate goal of evolution of sports in a global context. This is a major call of this study to both academics and practitioners, as governance of international sports is expected to remain the topic of a great debate in academic literature and popular media.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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