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Sport Delivery in a Highly Socialized Environment: A Case Study of Embeddedness

Laura Cousens and Martha L. Barnes

The social embeddedness of economic interaction has emerged at the forefront of economic sociology over the last 15 years. In the context of sport, however, little research has been undertaken to enhance our understanding of how the socialized context surrounding sport organizers, local governments, and corporate sponsors impact decisions affecting sport delivery. Therefore, the purpose of this case study is to explore the social embeddedness of decision makers in sport organizations and the local government that shape sport delivery in one community. An embedded perspective of economic interactions considers the continuity of relationships that generate particular behaviors, norms, and expectations. In-depth interviews with the leaders of this community’s sport organizations and the members of its local government were undertaken to gain insight into the nature of how decisions pertaining to sport delivery were shaped and constrained by the social context in which they were bounded. The results of this research suggest that the informal interaction among community leaders in sport and politics served to inhibit change in the way sport programs were delivered in this community. Further, taken for granted assumptions of city leaders about the type, number, and quality of sports delivered to the residents resulted in fewer opportunities for sport participation, despite an awareness of the limitations of the existing programs.