A Longitudinal Study of Power Relations in a British Olympic Sport Organization

in Journal of Sport Management
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  • 1 Liverpool John Moores University
  • | 2 The Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • | 3 University of Stirling
  • | 4 University of Southern Denmark
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The purpose was to examine the power relations during a change of culture in an Olympic sports organization in the United Kingdom. The authors conducted a 16-month longitudinal study combining action research and grounded theory. The data collection included ethnography and a focus group discussion (n = 10) with athletes, coaches, parents, and the national governing body. The authors supplemented these with 26 interviews with stakeholders, and we analyzed the data using grounded theory. The core concept found was that power relations were further divided into systemic power and informational power. Systemic power (e.g., formal authority to reward or punish) denotes how the national governing bodies sought to implement change from the top-down and impose new strategies on the organization. The informational power (e.g., tacit feeling of oneness and belonging) represented how individuals and subunits mobilized coalitions to support or obstruct the sports organization’s agenda. Olympic sports organizations should consider the influence of power when undertaking a change of culture.

Feddersen, Morris, Littlewood, and Richardson are with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom. Feddersen is also with The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. Morris is also with the University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom. Storm is with the Learning & Talent in Sport, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.

Feddersen (nielsfeddersen@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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