This paper presents a novel theoretical conceptualization of football clubs and empirical evidence as to how supporter groups, owners, and others engaged to resolve threats to their club. We use boundary theory to understand the evolution of two football clubs’ ownership, financing, and governance structures and demonstrate how the blurring of club boundaries was linked to engagements in interface areas between the club and other social groups. We argue that the appropriateness of different combinations of ownership, financing, and governance practices should be evaluated in terms of how they support effective engagement spaces that negotiate relationships with codependent social groups. Conceptualizing football clubs as boundary objects provides some specific insights into changes observed in Scottish football clubs. However, this approach is relevant to other situations in which club success is dependent on cooperative engagements with multiple social groups that have both convergent and divergent interests in the club.
Andrew Adams is with the School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Stephen Morrow is on the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom. Ian Thomson is with the Department of Accounting, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.