Intercollegiate Athletic Corporate Sponsorships and the First Amendment

Intercollegiate Athletic Corporate Sponsorships and the First Amendment:

In response to the recent escalation of head coaches’ salaries in intercollegiate athletics, and the constant pressure for athletic directors to adhere to shrinking budgets, many athletic directors are turning to corporate sponsorships to increase revenue. Athletic departments can raise money from corporate sponsors in a variety of methods ranging from selling advertising on the outfield fence of the baseball stadium to allowing corporate sponsors to set up an information booth and distribute advertisements on the concourse in the basketball arena. While an athletic director may be eager to welcome with open arms corporate sponsors with open checkbooks, an athletic director may at times be placed in a situation where he or she does not want to allow a corporate sponsorship to a company or organization that could portray a negative image on the athletic department or the university. For example, an athletic director may decide to decline an offer from Hooters, or a local “gentlemen’s club” to become a corporate sponsor for fear that it will negatively impact the family atmosphere and image the athletic department would like to portray. However, an Athletic Director at a state institution must be aware that providing sponsorship opportunities to certain companies while refusing sponsorship opportunities to others could implicate the right to free speech under the First Amendment. This article will attempt to provide an Athletic Director with information regarding lawful distinctions between corporate sponsors in order to avoid infringing on the First Amendment rights of the members of a corporation who are seeking to become a corporate sponsor for a state institution’s athletic department.

From the outset, it must be noted that this article only applies to state institutions because the First Amendment is not implicated with regard to private institutions. Thus, if a private religious university such as Brigham Young University refuses to allow Budweiser or Coors to become corporate sponsors (since alcohol consumption is contrary to the religious beliefs supported by B.Y.U.), it can lawfully decline such a corporate sponsor without any possible First Amendment implications.

The first step in analyzing a freedom of speech problem such as whether the athletics department can constitutionally deny a corporate sponsor an opportunity to engage in athletic department promotions is to determine the type of forum in which the intended speech is to take place. See Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Educ. Fund, 473 U.S. 788, 800 (1985). The 9 th Circuit in Diloreto noted that “where the government acts in a proprietary capacity to raise money or to facilitate the conduct of its internal business, the Supreme Court generally has found a nonpublic forum, subject only to the requirements of reasonableness and viewpoint neutrality.” Diloreto v. Downey Unified School Dist. Bd. of Educ , 196 F.3d 958 (9 th Circuit, 1999), citing Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights, 418 U.S. 298, 303-304 (1974). The Diloreto court held that where a high school offered advertising opportunities to businesses allowing the business to post an advertisement on a sign at the high school baseball field, and where the intent of the school in opening the baseball field to advertising was to raise funds, not to create a forum for unlimited public expression, the forum was a nonpublic forum open for a limited purpose. Id. at 966.

When an athletic department offers corporate sponsorships, it is clearly doing so to raise funds for the athletics department, not to create a forum for unlimited public expression. Thus, when an athletic department solicits and receives a corporate sponsorship such as for the signage at the athletic field or arena, the forum that has been created will likely be found to be a nonpublic forum open for a limited purpose.
In a nonpublic forum open for a limited purpose, restrictions on access “can be based on subject matter…so long as the distinctions drawn are reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum” and as long as the restrictions discriminate on the basis of content rather than viewpoint. See Id.; Rosenberger, 515 U.S. at 829 (1995); Lamb’s Chapel, 508 U.S. at 392-93 (1993); Cornelius at 806. Thus, before denying an opportunity to a corporate sponsor, an athletic director must ensure that the he or she is making a reasonable distinction based on the purpose of the sponsorship opportunities it is offering, as well as ensuring that he or she is not making a distinction between two corporate sponsors on the basis of a corporation’s viewpoint.

Making a Reasonable Distinction

In Lehman, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether it was reasonable for a city transit system to decide which type of advertising may be displayed in its buses; an issue that arose when a political candidate was not allowed to advertise on the city buses. Lehman at 298. The Lehman court held that the city’s decision to exclude political advertising from bus signs was reasonable given the city’s desire to generate revenue and the potential for “ lurking doubts about favoritism, and sticky administrative problems [that] might arise in parceling out limited space to eager politicians.” Id. at 304.
An athletic director’s reason to decline offers from corporate sponsors such as Hooters or a local “gentlemen’s club” may be to keep a family oriented atmosphere at its games, and maintain an environment that is suitable for children. It is likely that making a distinction between a corporate sponsor such as Hooters and a corporate sponsor such as Ford or Coke based on the atmosphere that the corporate sponsor may create would be seen as a reasonable distinction.

Viewpoint Versus Content Discrimination

However, even assuming that an athletics department’s reason to deny a sponsorship opportunity to a certain corporation is reasonable, it may still violate the First Amendment if doing so discriminates on the basis of viewpoint, rather than content. Diloreto at 969, citing Cornelius at 811.

The U.S. Supreme Court noted that the distinction between viewpoint discrimination and content discrimination is not a precise one. Rosenberger at 831. The Diloreto court attempted to explain the distinction when it stated, “ Permissible content-based restrictions exclude speech based on topic, such as politics or religion, regardless of the particular stand the speaker takes on the topic.” Diloreto at 969, citing Children of the Rosary, 154 F.3d at 981. The Diloreto court further stated, “In contrast, impermissible viewpoint discrimination is a form of content discrimination in which the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject.” Id. citingRosenberger at 829.
In Diloreto, a businessman was not allowed to buy advertising space at the high school baseball field because his proposed sign listed the text of the Ten Commandments, which was against the school’s policy of not allowing religious advertising. Id. at 962. The school district refused to post the sign “based on (1) concern about running afoul of the Establishment Clause; and (2) disruption, controversy and expensive litigation that might arise from community members seeking to remove the sign or from religious or political statements that others might wish to post.” Id. at 963. The Diloreto court stated, “We conclude that the District’s decision not to post Mr. DiLoreto’s sign was pursuant to a permissible, content-based limitation on the forum, and not viewpoint discrimination.”
If an athletic director allows corporate sponsors that promote a family environment to engage in sponsorships, while he or she refuses to allow corporate sponsors that promote an adult oriented environment to engage in the same sponsorships, the athletic director would likely be seen to be engaging in permissible content discrimination rather than viewpoint discrimination. By way of example, the athletics department would not be allowed to refuse to allow Hooters to be a corporate sponsor, while at the same time allow another adult oriented business such as a local “gentlemen’s club” to be a corporate sponsor because doing so would be deciphering between two different businesses that are adult oriented, which would likely be seen as viewpoint discrimination because the decision to exclude Hooters instead of the local “gentlemen’s club” would appear to be based on the particular views or specific stance Hooters takes. Similarly, an athletic director could not allow certain religious organizations such as the local Baptist Church to become a corporate sponsor while refusing to allow other organizations such as an atheist group to become a corporate sponsor because doing so would likely be seen as impermissible viewpoint discrimination.

However, the Diloreto case offers support for an athletic director to refuse to allow a religious organization or an adult oriented business to become corporate sponsors so long as the athletic director refuses to allow all religious organizations and adult oriented businesses to become corporate sponsors because doing so would likely be viewed as permissible content discrimination rather than impermissible viewpoint discrimination.


Therefore, since an athletic department, through its corporate sponsorships has likely created a nonpublic forum open for a limited purpose, if the distinction the athletic director is making between different corporations is a reasonable distinction that does not amount to viewpoint discrimination, it is likely that the athletic director’s actions of refusing to allow such a corporation to be one of its corporate sponsors would be found to be constitutional.

2015-03-24T10:33:18-05:00September 4th, 2005|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Intercollegiate Athletic Corporate Sponsorships and the First Amendment

Price and Non-price Promotions in Minor League Baseball and the Watering Down Effect


Game promotions are believed necessary to help increase attendance in minor league baseball. As such, many game promotions are presented. In major league baseball as well as for many other products, a watering down effect exists when sales promotions are offered too frequently. As minor league baseball offers more promotions than major league baseball, it is reasonable to expect to find a similar condition. Attendance and promotion data were collected from 31 randomly selected minor league teams over the course of an entire season. Regression analysis showed that a watering down effect was present only for price game promotions. For non-price game promotions and for game promotions overall, there was no watering down effect.

Price and Non-price Promotions in Minor League Baseball and the Watering Down Effect

Game promotions in minor league baseball are held mainly to increase attendance to games. Indeed, pundits believe fans of minor league baseball have come to expect the added value of a special event or giveaway when attending a minor league game. Minor league ball clubs are cognizant of this expectation. Most of them on a regular basis provide fans with more than just a baseball game. They offer them entertainment activities, free souvenirs, or ticket and concession discounts.

Can there be too much of a good thing? Have minor league baseball fans become less appreciative and perhaps less motivated to attend games because what was once an added bonus to their price of admission has now become an expected part of the minor league game experience? Is there a “watering down” effect on attendance to games with a promotion? Specifically, do minor league ball clubs with an increased number of promotions see a reduced return on their promotional investment in the form of a smaller increase in attendance for games with promotions?

In major league baseball, there is a slight “watering down” effect for ball clubs with an increased number of promotions (McDonald & Rascher, 2000). In the minor leagues, where almost all ball clubs have a greater number of promotions than major league ball teams, it can be assumed that this same effect would occur, perhaps to an even greater extent.

A major objective in marketing professional sports is to increase attendance to games and matches. In minor league baseball, this objective is particularly important (McDonald & Rascher, 2000). Both price and non-price sales promotions have long been used to increase attendance and market product in the minor leagues. Attendance to minor league baseball is currently just below 40 million (in 2004) after being approximately 39 million for each of the three previous seasons (Minor League Baseball, 2005).

A long held belief by pundits in professional team sports is that a winning team is essential to increase attendance. Research has found, however, that a winning team has little to no effect on attendance in minor league baseball (Branvold, Pan, & Gabert, 1997). Other methods must be used, minor league baseball executives have learned, to draw spectators to the ballpark.Promotions, whether through special events or in-game, are believed necessary to provide spectators with the added entertainment value needed to help attract them to the games.Like many other entities in the leisure services industry, minor league baseball provides it customers with both price and non-price promotions (Wakefield & Bush, 1998).

In this study, we are concerned with “game promotions,” those promotions that are the main promotion or special event for each game a ball club has with such a promotional activity. Game promotions are often coupled, so that more than one is offered on a single date. Often, more than one price or one non-price promotion is offered together and sometimes a combination of price and non-price promotions is provided.

Literature Review

Baseball Promotions and Attendance

Little scholarly activity has been generated on promotions in minor league baseball. Minor league baseball executives believe, however, that games promotions are a powerful incentive to attract spectators and fans to games (Baade & Tiehen, 1990). As such¸ games promotions are often heavily advertised and promoted (Bernthal & Graham, 2003). In major league baseball promotions increase attendance by 14% (McDonald & Rascher, 2000). We can assume the effect is greater in minor league baseball.

Major league baseball attendance has been explained by a model using attendance data from two baseball seasons and accounted for .69 of the variance of attendance (Noll, 1974). The model was later altered to include 18 seasons and accounted for .84 of the variance (Baade & Tiehen, 1990). However, the researchers suggested that promotional activity might explain the attendance unaccounted for in their model (1990).

Overall, game promotions may not be a strong enough motivator to increase attendance than most minor league executives believe (Bernthal & Graham, 2003). These promotions might merely shift the attending from one game to another for some spectators (McDonald & Rascher, 2000; Baade & Tiehen, 1990). If so, there would no effect on increasing the season attendance level. However, the more fans at a game, the more excitement that is generated and the more likely these fans will attend other games and create buzz about the experience (1990).

Professional sports teams are finding it necessary to promote with greater intensity and frequency due to increasing competition from other sports and from the entertainment industry (McDonald & Rascher, 2000). It may be this frequency of promotion has led to the watering down effect on attendance to major league games (2000). Again, this same effect seems probable in minor league baseball as most ball clubs have many more game promotions than teams in the major leagues.

Sales promotions in marketing

Several studies have investigated the impact of promotional frequency and promotional discount levels (Blattberg, Briesch and Fox, 1995). Brands that are heavily promoted have reduced levels of brand equity with a resulting reduction in the consumer reference price (1995). Raju noted an over saturation effect in promotional discounts and posited that higher sales increases are more likely to occur when deep discounts are offered less frequently (1992). These price promotions have been found to be more effective for utilitarian products than hedonic products (Chandon, Wansink & Laurent, 2000). In minor league baseball, those attracted to price promotions are spectators who are price conscious and who attend infrequently (Wakefield & Bush, 1998). Over-promotion of a product can occur causing consumers to buy less of a product at its regular price (Blattberg, et al, 1995).

The long-term effect of promotions on a brand is debatable, however, with some studies finding a negative effect (Dodson, Tybout & Sternthal, 1978; Shoemaker & Shoaf, 1977), and some finding no negative effect (Neslin & Shoemaker, 1989; Totten & Block, 1987). A more recent study found both negative and positive results for the long-term impact of promotions (Boulding, Lee & Staelin, 1994). Still, a generalization that is most akin to the watering down effect is “The greater the frequency of deals, the lower the height of the deal spike.” This generalization results most probably from consumers coming to expect frequent promotions and from an alteration of the consumer’s reference price (Blattberg, et al, 1995).

The most effective sales promotions are those that provide benefits that are similar or complement the benefit inherent in the product. Non-price promotions complement the benefit and are more effective when matched with hedonic products (such as minor league baseball) while price promotions are more effective for utilitarian products (Chandon, Wansink & Laurent, 2000). Not surprisingly, in an entertainment setting, such as minor league baseball, non-price promotions add entertainment value rather than reducing the price (Wakefield & Bush, 1998).

Research Question and Hypotheses

As a watering down effect on promotions exists for major league baseball, and with many more games in minor league baseball than in the majors having a game promotion, it could be assumed that watering down effect occurs in minor league baseball. However, because such an emphasis is placed on promotions as a method of attracting spectators to minor league baseball games, team executives must believe there is no watering down effect. Therefore, the research question guiding this study is: Does a watering down effect exist with promotions in minor league baseball?

We will assume that team executives know their product well and that is the reason for them having as many games with game promotions as they do. We also note that leisure services promotions in an entertainment setting are geared toward adding entertainment value. Therefore, we hypothesize that:

H1: As the number of games with game promotions is increased, attendance
will not decrease. (No watering down effect).

Likewise, we can assume that because spectators attend a minor league baseball game to be entertained, they will welcome the opportunity to be entertained beyond the benefit of watching the ballgame by a non-price promotion, many of which provide added entertainment. Therefore we hypothesize that:

H2: As the number of games with non-price game promotions is increased, attendance will not decrease. (No watering down effect).

Price promotions are more beneficial to marketers when a utilitarian product is sold than when a hedonic product like minor league baseball is sold. Coupled with the finding that those attracted to price promotions are spectators who are price conscious and who are most likely to attend infrequently (Wakefield & Bush, 1998), we hypothesize that there will be a watering down effect with price promotions:

H3: As the number of games with price game promotions is increased, attendance will decrease.

Finally, because consumers evaluate promotions based on the dominant benefit the promotion provides (Chandon, Wansink & Laurent, 2000), and because minor league baseball is a hedonic product, spectators will put more emphasis on the non-price promotion than on the price promotion when these types of promotions are coupled for one game. Therefore, we hypothesize that a watering down effect will not be present in the combination of non-price and price promotions:

H4: As the number of games with a combination of price and non-price game promotions is increased, attendance will not decrease.


Attendance data coupled with the game promotions were gathered from 31 randomly selected minor league baseball teams over the course of the 2002 season. These ball clubs included teams from each level of minor league baseball: AAA, AA, Advanced A, A, Short-season A, and Rookie. Attendance data for each game were collected from on-line box scores or through E-mail from the teams.

Game promotion data, the date and type, were found on ball clubs’ websites and pocket schedules. Game promotions were coded as consisting of price, non-price, or a combination of price and non-price promotions. Price promotions are those that provide a price discount, usually on tickets or concessions. Non-price promotions are those that contain comedy or musical acts, celebrity appearances, giveaways, sweepstakes, contests, audience participation, tributes, community events and the ever-popular fireworks presentation. Attendance was then matched to the game promotion. Like McDonald and Rascher’s study of major league baseball attendance (2000), a regression analysis was completed with attendance as the dependent variable.


Over the course of the season, the 31 ball clubs generated 1231 observations of attendance and game promotions. This large number of observations should negate the effects of other variables that might have an effect on attendance.

The number of home openings (n=1905) for each ball club ranged from 32 to 72 with a mean of 68. The percentage of openings with at least one game promotion for each ball club ranged from 23% to 94% with a mean of 65%. The attendance for the openings with game promotions ranged from 128 to 15,983 with a mean of 4,157. The impact of these game promotions on attendance for each team (the difference between the promotion attendance mean and the mean of attendance for games with no game promotion) ranged from –421 to 5087 (Table 1).

For an overall view of the effects of game promotions on attendance comparisons of means were used. First, the mean promotion attendance (4,157) was compared to the mean attendance of all openings (3,824). This comparison provided an increase of attendance at games with promotions of 333 and was significant at the .001 level. This figure represents an increase of only about 9% in attendance and does not provide a true picture of the impact of game promotions. For many minor league ball clubs, there are few games that do not include a game promotion. In this sample 65% of home openings included a game promotion. Therefore, the differences are less than one might expect and other comparisons need to be made for a more complete statistical picture.

A comparison of the mean (4,157) of promotion attendance (n =1,231) to the mean (2,969) of no promotion attendance (n = 674) shows a difference of +1,177 representing a significant (t = 14.23, p < .001) increase of 40% in attendance.

As some teams have more game promotions than other teams, several questions of interest are raised. Is there a watering down effect on teams that have a greater number of promotions? Does a greater number of promotions result in less of an impact on attendance? To answer these questions regression was used to analyze the impact of the number of promotions on attendance. Analysis was completed for the effect on all game promotions and the effect on price, non-price, and a combination of price and non-price promotions. If a decrease in attendance was found from increasing the number of promotions, the regression coefficient (Beta) would be negative. Overall, for all teams the regression model showed a positive effect (F (1, 1903) = 218.98, R 2 = .10, β = .321, p < .001). Only three of the thirty-one teams had a negative coefficient (Table 2). As the majority of teams and the overall effect show an increase in attendance when the number of promotions is increased, Hypothesis one is supported. There is no watering down effect overall.

When only non-price game promotions are included in the regression model, a significant positive effect between attendance and the promotion is found (F (1, 1529) = 193.45, R 2 = .11, β = .335, p < .001). Individually, about two out of every three teams (21) had a significant positive effect (Table 3). Comparing the mean attendance of non-price promotion games (4,792) with the mean attendance of no promotion games(2,969) for all teams produces a significant (t =17.96, p < .001) increase in attendance of 61%. Hypothesis two is supported. Attendance does not decrease when the number of non-price promotions is increased. There is no watering down effect.

When only price game promotions are included in the regression model, a significant negative but weak effect between attendance and the promotion is found (F(1, 926) = 31.87, R 2 = .03, β = -.182, p < .001). Individually, 10 teams had a significant negative effect. Ten other teams, perhaps knowledgeable of this effect offered zero or only one price promotion (Table 4). Comparing the mean attendance of price promotions (2,157) with the mean attendance of no promotion (2,969) for all teams reveals a significant (t = -6.76, p < .001) decrease in attendance of 20%. Hypothesis three is supported; there is a watering down effect on price game promotions.

When a combination of non-price and price game promotions are included, a significant positive but weak effect is found (F(1, 793) = 14.32, R 2 = .02, β = .133, p < .001). For the individual teams, 11 of them had a significant positive effect. Twelve teams had zero or only one game with this combination of promotions (Table 5). Comparing the mean attendance of these combination of promotions games (3,556) with the mean attendance of no promotion (2,969) for all teams produces a significant (t = 2.54, p < .024) increase in attendance of 20%. Generally, Attendance does not decrease when the number of games with a combination of price and non-price promotions is increased. Hypothesis four is supported. There is no watering down effect.

Discussion and Implications

For the most part, game promotions do increase attendance to games. Unlike in major league baseball where a watering down effect has been found (McDonald & Rascher, 2000), in minor league baseball the more games with game promotions that are held, the more attendance will be generated for each game. However, there is a difference in attendance impact generated by different types of promotions.

There is no watering down effect for non-price promotions. When the number of games with non-price promotions is increased, there is an increase in attendance for almost all teams. Teams that do not see a significant increase should examine their operation to understand why they do not attract more spectators for non-price promotion games. Perhaps it is due to not advertising those games enough or it could be due to some other situation. For example, one ball club that did not see a significant increase is the Hudson Valley Renegades. Upon examination of their attendance figures it is learned that they always operate near capacity of their 4,494 seat ball park, whether they have a promotion or not. Therefore, the size of their ballpark appears to be the problem.

With game promotions that are price promotions, there is a watering down effect. Increasing the number of games with price promotions does not significantly increase attendance for almost all teams. In fact, for many teams there is a significant decrease in attendance when having a higher number of price game promotions. This suggests that spectators do not place much importance on, or see little value in, lower prices for the baseball product. These findings are consistent with the findings (see Wakefield & Bush, 1998) that leisure services customers find more value in promotions that have hedonic benefits such as increased entertainment.

When combining price and non-price game promotions for a single game, there is not a watering down effect for most teams. However, the effect on an increase in attendance is weak. The non-price game promotion dominates the price promotion but is seriously weakened by the effect of the price promotion, and therefore, does not produce a strong impact on attendance.

This study is limited in that it did not examine the attitudes of spectators towards the types of game promotions. It did, however, use attendance as somewhat of a proxy for favorable and unfavorable attitudes towards the game promotions. This study also is limited by the fact that it did not consider the advertising weight or effort that was made toward making spectators aware of an upcoming promotion. Obviously, this effort should have an effect on the impact on attendance from each game promotion.

Future studies into baseball and sports promotions should examine the overall season effect of promotions on attendance. Do spectators “cherry pick” games with specific promotions to attend? That is, do fans merely shift attending one game to attending another game because the later game has a promotion? If so, seasonal attendance impact would vary little with or without promotions. Because of the wide variance of impact on attendance from team-to-team in this study, research may be pertinent on the amount of advertising that is done to promote the game promotions. How many fans are aware of the promotion before coming to the ballpark? Does increased communication about game promotions affect the impact on attendance of those promotions? Is one form of advertising game promotions more effective than other forms? Furthermore, examining the promotion-proneness of spectators may provide insights into which game promotions are most salient for those who are most promotion-prone.

As minor league baseball executives search for new and different promotions to bring spectators to their ballparks, they would not be amiss to concentrate on non-price promotions for an increased impact on attendance. They should limit the number of price game promotions to only a very few per season, and they should evaluate the potential return on investment when they couple non-price and price promotions.


  1. Baade, R. & Tiehen, L. (1990). An analysis of major league baseball attendance, 1969-1987. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 14(1), 14-32.
  2. Bernthal, M. & Graham, P. (2003). The effect of sport setting on fan attendance motivation: The case of minor league vs. collegiate baseball. Journal of Sport Behavior, 26(3), 223-240.
  3. Blattberg, R.C., Briesch, R. & Fox, E.J. (1995). How promotions work. Marketing Science, 14(3), G122-G132.
  4. Boulding, W., Lee, E. & Staelin, R. (1994). Mastering the Mix: Do advertising, promotion and sales force activities lead to differentiation? Journal of Marketing Research, 31(May 1994). 159-172.
  5. Branvold, S.E., Pan, D.W., & Gabert, T.E. (1997). Effects of winning percentage and market size on attendance in minor league baseball. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 6(3), 35-42.
  6. Chandon, P., Wansink, B. & Laurent, G. (2000). A benefit congruency framework of sales promotion. Journal of Marketing, 64(4). 65-81.
  7. Dodson, J.A., Tybout, A.M. & Sternthal, B. (1978). Impact of deals and deal retraction on brand switching. Journal of Marketing Research, 15, (February 1978). 72-81.
  8. McDonald, M. & Rascher, D. (2000). Does bat day make cents? The effect of promotions on the demand for major league baseball. Journal of Sport Management, 14, 8-17.
  9. Minor League Baseball. (2005). History. Retrieved June 23, 2005 from
  10. Neslin, S.A. & Shoemaker, R.W. (1989). An alternative explanation for lower repeat rates after promotion purchases. Journal of Marketing Research, 26(2). 205-213.
  11. Noll, R. (1974). Attendance and price setting. In R. Noll (Ed.) Government and the Sports Business (115-157). Washington: Brookings Institute.
  12. Raju, J.S. (1992). The effect of price promotions on variability in product category sales. Marketing Science, 11(3). 207-220.
  13. Shoemaker, R.W. & Shoaf, F.R. (1977). Repeat rates of deal purchases. Journal of Advertising Research, 17(2). 47-53.
  14. Totten, J. & Block, M. (1987). Analyzing Sales Promotion: Test and Cases. Chicago: Commerce Communications.
  15. Wakefield, K.L. & Bush, V.D. (1998). Promoting leisure services: Economic and emotional aspects of consumer response. The Journal of Services Marketing, 12(3), 209-222.

Table One

Table Two

Table 3

Table Four

Table Five


2015-03-24T10:30:36-05:00September 3rd, 2005|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Facilities, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Price and Non-price Promotions in Minor League Baseball and the Watering Down Effect

Sport News in the Local Media – Green Bay Packers’ Return to Glory


The academic field of media communication inquires into diverse phenomena about information delivery and cultural production made through media such as newspapers, television, films, the Internet, etc. According to James Carey (1992), there are two views of communication in the history of American thought: a transmission view of communication and a ritual, or cultural, view of communication. A transmission view sees communication as a process by which information is delivered and distributed over distances. On the other hand, a ritual view of communication understands it as a symbolic representation whereby cultural beliefs and social reality are presented in order to draw people together in commonality. Until recently, communication research has been dominated by the transmission view of communication, which is characterized by so-called “effects research.” Carey, however, argues that without a consideration of the cultural aspects, the whole picture of communication phenomena cannot be properly understood.

Following Carey’s dictum, I will in this paper examine the practice of local television news media from the ritual view of communication. I will, especially, examine the relationship between community boosterism in sports news and the social–economic context in which such a practice is located. For this purpose, semiotic analysis will be applied to the WISC News 3 at Ten (hereafter, News 3) broadcasts in Wisconsin’s greater Madison area during the period from 23 January 1997 to 23 February 1997, in which the Green Bay Packers winning of the Super Bowl was the most newsworthy story.

According to the ritual view, television’s major role is to share consensus narratives. By this, local television news presents widely accessible cultural symbols and shared stories within a community, thus helping audiences develop a sense of local identity. According to George Sage (1990), not only is sport an important cultural arena through which people learn appropriate sociocultural attitudes and values, but it is also a context within which a community’s collective interests are cultivated and maintained. As such, by examining local sports news programs, I hope that our insight into the relationship between the local media and local sports teams will be enhanced, and that our understanding of the ritual view of communication may be deepened.

This paper is composed in the following order: Introduction; The Nexus of Community and Communication; Local News Media, Green Bay Packers and the Growth Machine; Boosterism Presented in the Local News Show: The Green Bay Packers and the Super Bowl; and finally, Conclusion and Discussion. In the following section, I shall examine how the notion of community has been studied in social science, and its relationship with communication (technology).

The Nexus of Community and Communication

A decline of community has occupied the central position in American social science since the late nineteenth century. Scholars, including Edward A. Ross and Louis Wirth, viewed that urbanization was destroying the traditional way of life or community. In particular, German theorist Ferdinand Tonnies’s book, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887), inspired social science students to take up a linear model of social change. According to his ideas, gemeinschaft (community)—characterized by its harmonic social relations based on consensus—was being replaced by gesellschaft (society), which was characterized by independent and self-interested social relations. Since the publication of the book, this linear model has become central in the research of social change and urbanization (Friedland & McLeod, 1998).

In the meantime, a group of scholars, including Charles Horton Cooley, John Dewey, and Robert Park, argued that community survived the urbanization. In particular, they noted that face-to-face communities such as families and neighborhood groups formed the base for creating social unity. Seeking to extend these basic groups outward, Cooley looked to communication technologies such as the telegraph, wire services, the telephone and the penny press; these were rapidly being used around the turn of the twentieth century. Cooley noted that with “the recent marvelous improvement of communicative machinery,” people could extend social unity, overcome the fragmented civil society and build a more democratic society (quoted in Simonson, 1996, p. 330).

As a philosopher, Dewey supported Cooley’s idea by exploring the nexus of the concepts communication and community:

There is more than a verbal tie among the words “common,” “community” and “communication.” Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common.… Consensus demands communication. (quoted in Carey, 1992, p. 22)

In brief, as terminological cousins, communication is understood as a tool for community integration.

Through his sociological study of newspapers, Park empirically examined the newspaper’s role in community integration. First, he saw the function of news as a mediator of public opinion, or as “some sort of consensus.” According to Park (1940/1967):

The first typical reaction of an individual to the news is likely to be a desire to repeat it to someone. This makes conversation, arouses further comment, and perhaps starts a discussion.… The clash of opinions and sentiments which discussion invariably evokes usually terminates in some sort of consensus or collective opinion—what we call public opinion.… (p. 42)

Secondly, Park argues that out of their struggle for existence, newspaper publishers made great efforts to integrate immigrants into American newspaper readership during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and this eventually built American community.

Contemporary sociologist Thomas Bender revisits the notion of community and criticizes the problems inherent in the linear model of urban theory. According to him, community is not simply a bygone phenomenon that has been replaced by urbanization, but is a “fundamental and enduring form of social interaction” (Bender, 1978, p. 43). He adds that it is “best defined as a network of social relations marked by mutuality and emotional bonds” (ibid., p. 7). This definition of community is echoed in Benedict Anderson’s notion of “imagined community.” According to Anderson, a nation can be understood as an imagined community “because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson, 1994, p. 6). In other words, a sense of community is constructed through daily rituals of media consumption by which the reader/audience imagines the media’s co-readers/co-audiences to be a part of the same commonality, even though they will never know most of these other members.

Based on this understanding, in the following section, I will contextualize the current practice of community spirit boosterism in the local media.

Local News Media, Green Bay Packers and the Growth Machine

For the past several decades, local news media institutions have concerned themselves with suburbanization, and the weakening of citizens’ attachment to the city—phenomena that could possibly lead to a loss of readership and audiences (Kaniss, 1991; Friedland and McLeod, 1998). In order to overcome this, local media have made efforts to promote civic pride and local identity among citizens. In alliance with other community groups, local media campaign for increased membership in literary circles, sports clubs and Lions Clubs, and for greater voter turnout during elections, which are considered indices of the abundance of social capital in a locality. In order to create symbolic capitals in the community, the local media often sponsor the construction of major public works. In a sense, local media is part of what Harvey Molotch calls the “growth machine,” which refers to the “apparatus of interlocking progrowth associations and governmental units” (Logan and Molotch 1987, p. 32). The foremost aim of the growth machine is to facilitate a value-free development of the community so that there are more jobs for citizens, improved urban services, etc. Since their major financial sources are in the local arena, the aggregate growth of a community directly affects the existence of the local media, and the media’s acquisition of greater readership and sale of more advertisements.

In news production, “news values” operate as culturally specific narrative codes. According to Bird and Dardenne (1988):

The journalist-storyteller is indeed using culturally embedded story values, taking them from the culture and re-presenting them to the culture, and is thus akin to the folk storyteller who operates in a ‘communal matrix’ vis-à-vis the audience. (p. 80)

In a sense, there is a triangular relationship among newsmaker, news text and audience built around the concept of news values. By understanding what kinds of news make sense and sell, local news media produce news text that has “news value” for their target audiences. This notion of “news values” often works as a justification for market-driven journalism. Philadelphia-based broadcaster Jim Gardner’s following remarks have implications in this regard:

…There are stories we do because we think people should know about them. But there are stories we do because people are interested in them. [Those kinds of stories are] not going to change the world, but it is gripping and it does bring people to TV and yes, raises our ratings.… (quoted in Kaniss, 1991, p. 109; phrase in brackets in original)

Against this background, the local news media tend to provide any news that makes their audiences feel proud of. For example, when Elizabeth Dole, president of the American Red Cross, visited Madison, Wisconsin, on 28 January 1997 to make a speech to local leaders and volunteers of the organization, the only sound bite of her address that was reported on News 3 was: “… Madison leads the United States to a better society …” In addition, news stories about Madison topping the polls as one of the most livable cities in America, or about Madison citizens or Wisconsinites being the most reliable and helpful people in America according to a recent poll, or about Wisconsin businesses ranking high on a list of most admired companies in the country in Fortune magazine make important news items. These kinds of news further function as an advertisement for Wisconsin being a good business site.

Like the local media, local sports teams are important institutions in the growth machine, as they assume roles that present a favorable image to outsiders. According to Logan and Molotch (ibid.): “Professional sports teams are a clear asset to localities for the strong image they present and tourist traffic they attract” (p. 79). The Green Bay Packers are not only a very important cultural and social element in Wisconsin, but are also a source of pride for the people of Wisconsin. As the only publicly-owned professional sports team in America, it gives most Wisconsinites, especially Green Bay citizens, symbolic ownership of the team. In fact, the team does not have one owner, but 111,613 stockholders. None of the latter are allowed to own more than 200,000 shares, so as to preserve the spirit of public ownership of the team. It is often said that any person who roots for the Packers is an owner of the team. As such, the Wisconsin fans’ allegiance to the team is so strong that since 1960, season tickets for the Packers’ home games have been sold out for every game; and the estimated waiting time for season tickets is more than 30 years (“Most unique”).

By enhancing Green Bay’s visibility as a big league city, the Packers are expected to attract those who make decisions to invest in Wisconsin. “Every country is tuned in. And a great way to sell Wisconsin and put our best foot forward, there’s no question about the fans here, are behind the Green Bay Packers. They truly are America’s team” (News 3. 26 January 1997). Wisconsin’s Governor Tommy Thompson said this in an interview after the Super Bowl game on 26 January 26 1997, revealing the tight relationship among the local media, local government, Green Bay Packers, local businesses, and local identity.

Boosterism Presented in the Local News Show: The Green Bay Packers and the Super Bowl

The News 3 is roughly composed in this order: general news (mainly on Wisconsin), commercials, a national and international news wrap, commercials, weather forecast, commercials, science and technology segment, commercials, sports news, commercials, and finally, a section called “Happy Talk” that has the news anchors delivering a light and soft news story with closing remarks. During the period of this research (from 23 January 1997 to 23 February 1997), the biggest news item was the Super Bowl game in which the Green Bay Packers won the championship over the New England Patriots. Therefore, the Super Bowl and the Green Bay Packers have provided many signs in news texts, in which audiences were invited to associate signifiers (for example, news items related to the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl) with signifieds (for example, mental processes such as “feeling proud of belonging to Wisconsin communities”).

News 3 on 23 January, three days before the Super Bowl game, shows the way in which “news values” dictate the programing of the local news show. The first story was about Packers player Reggie White’s promotion of his religious beliefs in relation to the then-national debate on prayers at school. The second story was about Packers fans’ fascination with Packers merchandise. The fifth was a story about White’s intention to move to Kenosha, Wisconsin, from his hometown in Tennessee. The sixth story was about the atmosphere in downtown Green Bay days before the Super Bowl. What was noticeable in the weather section on that night’s News 3 was that the weatherman reported on the weather in New Orleans, the site of the Super Bowl game. Not surprisingly, the first story in the sports section was on the Super Bowl. After News 3 ended at 10:35 PM, a special program entitled “Return to Glory, Live-broadcast from New Orleans” was aired as an extension to News 3. “Return to Glory” was filled with scenes from Packers game and interviews with Packers players, an introduction to the restaurants in New Orleans, and interviews with Packers fans already in downtown New Orleans. The night before the Super Bowl game on 25 January, the news anchors even gave a tip on how to order pizzas on the day of the game.

During the period of this research, many news items were related to the Packers. A story was delivered about the frequency of household water usage during Packers games and the rise in usage during half-time; even the local politics news was related to the Packers. On 26 January, on News 3 at Six—another evening news show on the same channel—anchor Susan Simon interviewed John Matthews, the chief of staff of Wisconsin’s Governor Thompson. Simon asked several questions on socio-economic issues in the state of Wisconsin, and her last question was on whether the governor would invite Packers players to the State of the State address:

Susan Simon: A little bit about fun note. I know after the Rose Bowl, the Governor invited a lot of football Badgers to attend the State of the State Address. What are the odds we might see some other Green Bay Packers Wednesday night?

John Matthews: Well, some people think that the Governor’s going to New Orleans to watch the game, but actually he’s going to New Orleans to see if we can invite them to State of the State Wednesday. Several were invited but I’m not sure who or anybody will show up.…

On that night, after the Packers won the Super Bowl championship, News 3 at Ten itself was transformed into a one-hour special program for the Packers with the title, “Return to Glory.” The first announcement of the program was: “Mike Holmgren, Green Bay Packers, and entire state of Wisconsin are Super Bowl champions.” The show was largely filled with interviews with the players and with fans on the street. The common remark made by interviewees was: “After 29 years, we did it.” During this one-hour news show, the only news items that were not related to the Super Bowl were the game reports of the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team and the Milwaukee Bucks.

During the period of the Super Bowl fever, the most popular phrases uttered by news anchors during the show were “Triumph return home” and “Return to glory.” The Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl championship not only meant glory for the players and coaches, but also glory and pride for the whole state of Wisconsin. For the people of Wisconsin, the Super Bowl game was viewed not as a match between individual teams but as Wisconsin versus the Other. In this atmosphere, stories which were not really “news” but could have been categorized as “gossip” on the Green Bay Packers were frequently reported. On 27 January, News 3 showed a video clip of a Disneyland television commercial that featured Packers player Desmond Howard, who was awarded the MVP award at the Super Bowl game. On 28 January, News 3 introduced a video clip of Late Show with David Letterman, in which Howard was a guest.

On 1 February, the Green Bay Packers and the Super Bowl still had news value on News 3. The first story of the night was about the Super Bowl ticket fraud; the second was a report on Shopko Stores in Green Bay, where an autograph-signing session by the Packers players was held; the third was a mystery debate on a newspaper photograph of Green Bay fans gathered together to celebrate the Super Bowl victory, and in which a Vince Lombardi look-alike was present. Stories related to the Packers continued into the sports section at night. Anchorman Martin Kilcoyne opened the sports section by saying, “Starving for just a morsel of Packer info?” This was followed by a replay of an interview with Packers player Brett Favre on The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder the previous night. On 2 February, Groundhog Day, right before the closing remark of the show, News 3 showed a groundhog in Pennsylvania. Then, a rodent was shown in New Orleans; this was not a groundhog, but a nutria. The anchorman said, “We gotta have something from New Orleans (smiling).” The anchorwoman added, “We just can’t break away from the whole New Orleans thing.” In a similar vein, on 11 February, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday Party in New Orleans was reported on News 3.

The next four stories were other examples that the Super Bowl continued to have news value in the local news in Wisconsin. On 3 February, tips to overcome “football blues” were included on News 3:

Anchor Beth Zurbuchen: The Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl win may be just what the doctor ordered to treat your winter blues. A La Crosse psychologist says when fans focused so closely on the Packers’ road to Super Bowl, many of us probably didn’t dwell on the cold icy winter. But if you are starting to settle into a funk, some words of advice from UW depression treatment program, “Keep the Celebration Going.”

Psychologist Gregory Kolden: … The way you deal with this kind of loss in general is find something to replace it.… So, find new way to celebrate, keep the celebration going …

Anchor John Karcher: Uh oh, there you go. Therapist say.

Kolden: Packers’ win in Super Bowl was a very powerful medicine for winter because it unites people and community.

As noted, the concern for community integration ranks high in the local media’s list of agendas. The following are news stories on how Packers’ merchandise was selling. The anchors even give price information for them. The first news story on News 3, 7 February, is as follows:

Anchor Cindy Krause: The Green and Gold is a gold mine for retailers. Stores have added up the numbers and last month was a better than usual month for business.…

Kohl’s manager, Susan Kleinfelt: It’s just been a phenomenal craze for us. Packers winning a Super Bowl has been four times greater than when the Badgers went to the Rose Bowl.…

Reporter Nancy Johnson: You can really pretend you’re Brett Favre with one of these.… This is an official game ball from Super Bowl and it’s selling for $99.99. Many Wisconsin retailers say January Super Bowl sales were excellent. Wisconsin-based Kohl’s says sales were up nearly 30 percent in January. Shopko saw fourteen and a half percent increase in sales last month, of which three percent is being attributed to Packer apparel sales.

Krause: Kohl’s put Packer items on sale for the first time today. The merchandise sold so well for the past month. They didn’t need to mark anything down.

Anchor John Karcher: And if you’re still suffering from Packer fever, there is new way to express yourself. See Reggie’s new movie.… Fans say the movie highlights Reggie’s face and it’s great. It’ll be in Madison next week.

A similar story was reported on 19 February:

Anchor John Karcher: Wisconsin just can’t let go of love affair with Super Bowl XXXI. A video tape chronicling the Packers’ Super Bowl season is now on sale. “The Return to Glory” video, which has all the highlights both on and off the field proves Packer fever never died.

Video store owner Bill Talley: It hasn’t died. We do fully expect to watch it fly out. It has been flying out. We started out yesterday with 1,800 copies. We sold 80 percent of them overnight.

Karcher: Geez. The video was also unveiled at a special showing at a local sports bar in Madison tonight. I guess it would cost about 25 bucks.

On 21 February, almost one month after the Super Bowl game, Packers-related news remained a good news item for News 3:

Anchor John Karcher: Well, if you didn’t get a chance to buy a hunk of Lambeau history, you’ve got a second chance.

Anchor Beth Zurbechen: This batch of 50,000 boxes are (sic) chunks of replacement turf from NFC championship game. The boxes go on sale tomorrow morning at eight. Each box is 10 bucks with a maximum limit of 25 boxes per person. The sale ends tomorrow about five. So, this will be your final chance to own a part of Lambeau Field.

This kind of celebratory tone continued to be a theme in the local media. It seems that the local media, as a local growth machine, was hoping that local pride would boost local businesses. From the examples given above, we can see that the local media’s interests are closely tied to civic pride in Wisconsin, the Packers organization, retailers, and the growth of the localities.

Conclusion and Discussion

In this paper, we have examined the relationship between concepts communication and community, and the practice of community boosterism by the local media through an analysis of WISC News 3 at Ten’s reports of the Green Bay Packers winning of the Super Bowl. While some might criticize the boosterism employed by the local media as uncritical paternalism that serves elite interests as one means of raising ratings for the program, we have learnt that media organizations play a role in fostering a common bond among citizens within their communities.

In general, news is regarded as a “hard” genre of television, with its self-proclaimed objectivity and factuality making it different from “soft” genres such as sitcoms, soap operas, and talk shows. In this paper, however, we have learnt that news is actually an “account” of an event based on “news values” rather than an “event” or “fact” in itself (Hartley, 1982). As the ritual view of communication enlightens us, news is a ritual that offers cultural reassurances of common beliefs. In this process, local news media tend to give precedence to consensus over balance, impartiality and objectivity—the four principles of journalism.


1. By this, Park called American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst the great Americanizer. In a similar vein, William Grosvenor Bleyer, the founding father of American journalism education, put forth that building solidarity among various elements of society was a policy of American newspapers (Friedland and McLeod, 1998).

2. Sport is important for the media. A third of the whole all newspaper readers are reported ly to buy the newspapers to read the sports section (Sage, 1990). Television’s unique ability to transmit live sports events is one of the major factors in for the expansion of satellite and cable television services. As such, local sports teams are all the more important for the local media.

3. Head coach of the Packers.

4. Emphases in quotations of the from reporters and interviewees in this paper are mine.

5. Vince Lombardi is the legendary figure who coached the Packers from 1959 to 1967. In his career as head coach in Green Bay, Lombardi led the Packers to five NFL Championships and victories in the first two Super Bowls. The Super Bowl trophy is named after him.

6. “The Green and Gold” are the colors of the Packers uniform and refers to the Packers.


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2016-10-12T14:48:32-05:00September 2nd, 2005|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Sport News in the Local Media – Green Bay Packers’ Return to Glory

Cross-Cultural Research and Back-Translation

An Overview on Issues of Cross-Cultural Research and Back-Translation


There are numerous studies which have been conducted in the field of sport based on an adapted or translated instrument across countries. However, using an adapted or translated instrument does not ensure that the adapted or translated one measures the same constructs as the original one does as a result of the cultural and lingual differences. Therefore, researchers who would like to adapt or translate in instrument from English version into different language version should be cognizant of such potential problems. The purpose of this paper is to provide researchers with an overview of issues regarding the cross-cultural study as well as the adapting or translating an instrument. In addition, the practical guidelines and the possible methods that can detect such problems are also included.


Due to the fact that the world is becoming a global village, more and more fields, such as business, public affairs, and research are becoming borderless. The frequent interaction and collaboration in the field of research all over the world result in greater interests in cross-cultural and international research (Sireci & Berberoglu, 2000). Numerous tests and questionnaires developed for the population in the United States have been translated or adapted by many researchers in some non-English countries (Butcher & Garcia, 1978). This phenomenon is also salient in Asian countries, i.e., research instruments translated from English is popular in academics in Taiwan, especially in the area of psychology and sports. Such translations and adaptations seemed to assume that these translated instruments have as satisfactory validity and reliability as the original one does. However, such an assumption could be dangerous due to a variety of factors that could influence the validity of score from an instrument in different cultural settings and languages (Geisinger, 1994; Hambleton, 2001; Van de Vijver & Hambleton, 1996). In addition, some bias including construct bias and item bias could arise when translating or adapting an instrument from another language (Butcher & Garcia, 1978; Van de Vijver & Hambleton, 1996). Under such a circumstance, the validity could be one of the problems causing inaccurate results. Therefore, a more careful examination on these issues is needed when a researcher translates or adapts the existing tests or questionnaires from another language. The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential issues that might be encountered by researchers when they are translating or adapting instruments or tests from another language. Moreover, remedies and practice from existing studies will also be discussed.

Issues and Possible Remedies Regarding Cross-Cultural Research

Generally, there are three types of bias in cross-cultural studies: construct bias, method bias, and item bias (Van de Vijver & Hambleton, 1996). The following are the elaboration of each type of bias as well as the possible methods to alleviate the potential problems:

  • Construct bias: this bias occurs when the construct being measured by an instrument shows non-negligible discrepancy across cultures. For example, the construct of “filial piety”, which means how obedient people are to their parents, differs greatly between Western cultures and Eastern cultures. Further, translating an existing instrument is more likely to result in such a bias than developing an instrument for different languages simultaneously. One possible solution of curing construct bias is to adapt/translate an instrument by a team in which the team members possess the expertise in multi-cultural and multi-lingual contexts.
  • Method bias: this bias is attributed to the administration procedure of the measurement including a variety of factors, such as social desirability among/between groups, respondents’ non-familiarity with the measurement and the physical conditions in which a survey is administered, etc. This bias could affect most or even all items of the measurement. In addition, the difference in scores between groups could result from the bias in the administration procedure of the test as opposed to the intrinsic differences of the groups studied if the method bias exists. There are several methods that could be adopted to examine the method bias: confirmatory factor analysis, which can be exploited to compare the equivalence of factor structures in different cultural settings (Marsh & Byrne, 1993); Multitrait-multimethod matrices (MTMM), in which “the inter-correlations among several traits each measured by several methods are appraised for evidence of validity” (Schmitt, Coyle, & Saari, 1977, p.447); repeated test administrations and measurements of social desirability.
  • Item bias: this bias is sometimes called differential item functioning. It may cause problems if such situations as poor wording, inaccurate translations, inappropriateness of item content in a cultural group exist at the item level of the measurement. More specifically, differential item functioning is present when two people with the same ability or level of the trait differs in response due to cultural differences. The statistical techniques developed to detect item bias are divided into two main categories: one developed for dichotomously scored items is the Mantel-Haenszel procedure (Holland & Thayer, 1988), which was proposed by Holland (1985) to detect whether items function differently for two groups of examinees by means of the 2 ×2 ×K contingency table along with the MH-CHISQ test statistic proposed by Mantel and Haenszel; an another procedure developed for detecting differential item functioning in test scores with interval-scale properties was based on the analysis of variance (ANOVA). Moreover, another widely used technique to detect the item bias is an independent back-translation (Brislin, 1980). An independent back-translation means that “an original translation would render items from the original version of the instrument to a second language, and a second translator—one not familiar with the instrument—would translate the instrument back into the original language” (Geisinger, 1994, p. 306). Finally, item response theory (IRT) applied to a variety of translated tests offers the possibility for cross-cultural researchers to solve the problem of measurement inequivalence as well as to discover the cultural and/or lingual differences (Ellis, 1989).

In addition, Geisinger (1994) raised some issues regarding cross-cultural assessment by using translation and adaptation of an instrument. The following are the descriptions and some suggestions of each issue:

  • Adaptation issue: this issue chiefly asks such a question as “Does a given measure need to be adapted?” This issue might not be problematic when no appreciable differences are detected between the original population and a new target population. However, if an instrument is surveyed in the subjects who speak another language instead of the language used in that instrument originally, then translation or adaptation is needed. Further, not only language but also cultural differences between the original and the target populations should be taken into account.
  • Validity issue: this issue mainly deals with the question: “Does the measure assess the same constructs in the new language or culture?” In general, every time an instrument is changed or is applied to a new target population, its validity and reliability are necessary to be examined to ensure that the new instrument assesses the same meanings or constructs with the same degree of accuracy in that new target population. Namely, the construct validation and the reliability should be checked after a measure is adapted to a new linguistic context (Geisinger, 1992b).
  • Interpretation issue: after the decisions of adaptation and validity issues have been made, the next issue is how to interpret the scores from the translated or adapted instrument on the new target population, i.e., “what do scores on the adapted measure mean?” Researchers should notice that meaningless scores may result from a translated test along with using the same scoring algorithm. There are a variety of differences, such as cultural and linguistic differences, that may render greatly different interpretations. Thus, carefully examining both construct and instrument comparability across cultures before giving interpretations is necessary and critical.

Practical Guidelines for Cross-Cultural Research

This section will present the practical guidelines for cross-cultural researchers to ensure satisfactory reliability and validity of the cross-cultural studies. The following are the suggested guidelines and principles adapted from Geisinger (1994) and Van de Vijver & Hambleton (1996).

  • The general guideline for the cross-cultural study is to avoid construct, method, and item bias as much as possible. Although it may be not possible to totally eliminate them, a researcher should minimize them.
  • The validity needs to be addressed and demonstrated instead of taking it for granted when multi-lingual/multi-cultural research is conducted. Back-translation procedures do not ensure the validity can be achieved. Instead, other techniques including multiple group confirmatory factor analysis should be utilized.
  • Try to avoid slang, jargon, and colloquialism.
  • Make sure that the accuracy of the translated instrument and the equivalence of all language versions are carefully examined.
  • The physical environment for the administration of an instrument should be tailored or adjusted as similar as possible.
  • The score differences among samples of target populations should not be just explained at the face value. It is the researcher’s responsibility to interpret the outcomes objectively and to provide information that might affect the scores.
  • Documentation is needed for information regarding how to use the assessment device and collect reactions and feedback from users, participants, and subjects.

Literature Concerning the Issues of Cross-Cultural Research

Watkins (1989) pointed out some problems with the traditional exploratory factor analysis and illustrated the advantages and applications of confirmatory factor analysis. Confirmatory factor analysis is based on the statistical theory of structural equation modeling and possesses some good properties, such as allowing researchers to specify the factor loadings, correlated residuals, and correlated factors. The utilization of confirmatory factor analysis can assist interpretation of an instrument, provide a better way of comparing factor structures and testing competing models, and aid the analysis of the multitrait-multimethod matrices when cross-cultural studies are conducted.

Sireci and Berberoglu (2000) attempted to evaluate translated-adapted items by means of bilingual respondents because there is no guarantee that the different language versions of instruments are equivalent (in their research, they utilized an English-Turkish version of a course evaluation form). They pointed out some advantages and disadvantages of using bilinguals to evaluate translated items. The same examinees responding to both language versions of an item eliminate the problem of item translation difference. In addition, the bilingual test takers possess the ability to place nontranslated items in both test forms. However, there are some disadvantages of employing bilinguals. For example, the generalization of the results may be problematic since the bilinguals are typically a selected and limited group of people. Moreover, the homogeneity of bilinguals’ language proficiency may be another problem: some have better command of language than others.

In Myers et al.’s study (2000), they stated that multi-group structural equations modeling is a reliable method for examining measurement equivalence. They assessed three constructs derived from cross-cultural advertising research across U.S. and Korea samples. They found that most but not all constructs used in this study met the requirements for cross-cultural equivalence. However, the model did not fit well when the factor loadings were constrained to be equal across groups. Some specific items may be the likely source of the problem detected by further tests. In sum, they concluded that multi-group structural equation modeling is a useful tool for model fit in cross-cultural research.

Ellis (1989) used item response theory (IRT) to evaluate the measurement equivalence of translated American and German intelligence tests. Also, content analysis was utilized to detect probable problems when differential item functioning (DIF) was identified in some items. The conclusions in this study are as follows: differential item functioning may be attributed to translation errors but it is likely due to differences in cultural knowledge or experience; this study provides cross-cultural psychologists with a cultural-free methodology for identifying cultural differences.


Cross-cultural studies have caught researchers’ attention for decades. Translations of instruments are an inevitable tool to conduct such studies. However, literal translation does not ensure that the translated instrument measures the same constructs as in the original instrument. The reason is that there may exist lingual or cultural or both differences across samples. Therefore, cross-cultural researchers should be cognizant of the numerous potential problems, such as construct, method, and item bias that could affect the results of studies. After identifying the possible bias, cross-cultural researchers should use appropriate statistical analysis techniques including confirmatory factor analysis and item response theory to examine, avoid, or eliminate the bias. Further, cross-cultural researchers should also pay close attention to the details regarding the administration of the tests or measurements. For instance, the physical conditions of administration of the measurement, avoidance of using slang, and how to interpret the score differences across samples are the critical factors that could undermine the quality of the studies. Consequently, only when the possible factors that could potentially influence the results of the cross-cultural studies are identified and remedied can researchers ensure the accuracy of the cross-cultural research.


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2015-03-24T10:20:22-05:00September 1st, 2005|Contemporary Sports Issues|Comments Off on Cross-Cultural Research and Back-Translation

Organizational Structures in Sport Clubs – Exploring the Relationship between Individual Perceptions and Organizational Position


This paper reports on an analysis of individual perceptions of organizational structures in Swedish elite ice hockey with the purpose of studying the relationship with organizational position. Findings are based on structured interviews with 8 individuals who work or are volunteers in 4 different organizational positions in 2 elite ice hockey clubs. Organizational position is defined by hierarchical level, line or staff position, and by paid or volunteer position. Perceptions are studied in relation to the structural dimensions specialization, standardization, and centralization. Results show that perceptions are related to the organizational position occupied and that the various perceptions result in tensions between the different organizational positions. The results are discussed in relation to findings concerning organizational commitment and job satisfaction.

Increasing difficulties in attracting and retaining coaches, administrators and volunteers within Swedish sport (Peterson, 2002) has generated a growing interest in the management and design of sport organizations. Increasing demands for effectiveness have increased the need for more sophisticated organizational structures which in turn have resulted in new, changed, and unknown circumstances for the people involved in sport organizations (Amis, Slack & Berrett, 1995). During these circumstances individual perceptions of organizational structures becomes important to explore.

In the study of organizations, the concept of organizational structure and the structural dimensions specialization, standardization and centralization has long been utilized to describe organizational features and configurations (Hage & Aiken, 1967; Lawrence & Lorch, 1967, Pugh et al., 1968; and Thompson, 1967). The concept of organizational structure has also been studied in relationship to individual variables such as organizational commitment, job satisfaction, job performance, employee turnover etc (see Porter & Lawler; 1964 and Cumming & Berger, 1976 for early reviews).

This text takes its departure in Fahlén (n.d.) where perceptions of organizational structure in two structurally different ice hockey clubs were compared. That study showed, amongst other things, that high levels of the three structural dimensions -specialization, standardization and centralization- were perceived more positively than low levels. The study did however not distinguish between different positions in each organization and as e.g. Payne and Mansfield (1973) point out, representing organizational climate in terms of mean values can be misleading. Payne and Mansfield (1973) showed that people in different positions in an organization have different views about the organizational climate. Rice and Mitchell (1973) have also shown that an individual’s perceptions are related to his or her position within an organization. Thus, studying individual perceptions related to organizational position becomes interesting.

Studying individual perceptions of organizational structure will not only help us to understand some of the mechanisms behind attracting and retaining individuals in a voluntary sport organization but will also contribute to the broader literature on both organizational structure and organizational commitment, organizational climate, job satisfaction, job performance, employee turnover etc.. Since organizations are much too complex for any given variable to have a consistent unidirectional effect across a wide variety of types of conditions (Porter & Lawler, 1965) extending the analysis to the study of variation in perceptions between different positions within an organization will help us broaden our understanding of how organizational structure affects individuals. If voluntary sport organizations are to succeed in delivering programs and events, the reasons behind individual perceptions and behaviors need to be explored. Organizations which fail to attract and retain a voluntary or paid workforce are more likely to spend more time and effort recruiting and training new personnel than furthering the goals of the organization (Cuskelly, 1995).

The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between the positions of individuals in an organization and their perceptions of organizational structures. The aim is not to seek incontrovertible proof of cause and effect relationships between organizational structure and individual perceptions but to, in an explorative manor, throw light upon some mechanisms behind mentioned perceptions. The analysis is based on interview data from two elite ice hockey clubs in Sweden.

Theoretical background

In the literature pertaining to the study of organizations it has long been emphasized that research needs to bridge the traditional gap between macro and micro, between the total organization, the group, and the individual (Brass, 1981). While considerable effort has been devoted to both the structures of organizations and to individual attitudes to work less attention has been given the relationship between the two. The relationship has indeed been investigated but, with a few exceptions (e.g. Oldham & Hackman, 1981; Pheysey, Payne & Pugh, 1971), exactly how it functions remains unexplored. What we do know about attitudes towards and perceptions of structural features is based mainly on results taken from industrial and government enterprises and we do not yet know whether that knowledge would hold in a sport organization context (Chang & Chelladurai, 2003).

Research roughly speaking has studied either individual or organizational factors as possible sources of individual perceptions such as e.g. job satisfaction or organizational commitment. Both perspectives have produced results to support their case even if some comparative studies have found perceptions, attitudes and behaviors to be related more to the structural context within which the job occurs than to individual characteristics (e.g. Glisson & Durick, 1988; Oldham & Hackman, 1981).

The basic assumption in this paper is drawn from the Job-Modification Framework where an understanding of the relationship between organizational structure and individuals’ perceptions is sought by looking at structural context and more precisely the characteristics of the job. Organizational structure is seen to affect job characteristics which in turn affect individual perceptions of the work and the organization. The Job-Modification Framework is based on findings concerning the relationship between organizational structure and job characteristics (e.g. Pheysey, Payne & Pugh, 1971) and on the relationship between job characteristics and individual perceptions (e.g. Pierce & Dunham, 1978). Theoretical and empirical work using the Job-Modification Framework offer some understanding of how organizational structure is perceived by individuals in an organization (e.g. Rousseau, 1977; and Oldham & Hackman, 1981).

One significant characteristic of a job is its position within an organization (Rice & Mitchell, 1973). Both hierarchical position and line or staff position have been explored in the literature. In the study of sport organizations the distinction between paid staff and volunteer personnel has also been analyzed. Research into organizational position with regard to the distinction hierarchical level and line or staff function has, broadly speaking, shown that people at higher levels and in line positions are to a greater extent associated with more positive attitudes, such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment, and with more positive behaviors such as high performance and low absenteeism (Cummings & Berger, 1976; and Porter & Lawler, 1964). No uniform findings regarding the differences between people in paid and volunteer positions are available but some related research shows that the two groups have different perceptions of e.g. organizational commitment and influence in decision making (Cuskelly, Boag & McIntyre, 1999; Auld & Godbey, 1998; and Cuskelly, McIntyre & Boag, 1998).

Using the framework proposed above and supporting empirical findings on the job characteristics mentioned will allow an exploration of and explanations for possible differences in individual perceptions of organizational structure in this study. No causal interpretations of possible relationships will be made since neither sample nor method is appropriate for testing. Nevertheless the findings may be useful in pointing out where further research on sport organizations is needed, how knowledge of these issues can be achieved, and why this knowledge is important for the management of sport organizations in Sweden and elsewhere.



Data were collected in two Swedish elite ice hockey clubs, clubs organized along lines similar to those in many industrialized countries today. The sporting individual is a member of a sport club, which in turn is affiliated to a regional sport federation, which in turn is affiliated to a national sport federation under the Swedish sports confederation (RF). The Swedish elite ice hockey league is the highest division in a system comprising a maximum of seven divisions. The system is hierarchical based on sports merits and the teams are run by membership-based non-profit clubs.

One way of moving away from calculated means and closer to actual perceptions is to analyze interview data from individuals in a variety of positions within an organization. The definition of organizational position, inspired by the Aston Paradigm, comprises the distinction between hierarchical levels (Pugh et al., 1968), the distinction between line and staff personnel as proposed by Porter and Lawler (1965), and the distinction between paid staff and volunteer personnel. No distinction is made between the two clubs.

The lowest hierarchical level (0) according to Pugh, et al. (1968) is the operating level, the direct worker, in this case assumed to be the ice hockey player or the Youth volunteer. Line personnel are the people involved in the organization’s primary output (playing ice hockey) while staff personnel are involved in the coordination, control, and support of those in line positions. Paid staff derive their main income from the organization. Volunteer personnel, while not excluded if paid smaller amounts, are not salaried in the sense that they make their living from their involvement.

Respondents were picked based on organizational position. My aim was to reach individuals on all levels, in both line and staff positions, and both paid staff and volunteer personnel. For those positions where there was more than one individual to choose from interviewees were selected in consultation with the general manager based on accessibility. The selection resulted in 4 interviewees from each club as shown in Table 1: member of the board, coach of the first team, sales manager, and volunteer in the youth program.

Table 1

Organizational Position

 Rank Above Lowest Level Staff Positions Line Positions
Voluntary Position Paid Position Paid Position Voluntary Position
 3 Board Member
 2 Sales Manager
 1 Coach First Team
 0 Youth Volunteer


Inspired by the constructs created by Kikulis, Slack, Hinings and Zimmerman (1989) and Slack and Hinings (1987) a list of interview questions was created that were considered to reflect the three structural dimensions of organizational structure. With a minor modification to the Interview Questions, Organization Design Index (Slack, n.d.) it was possible to adjust the constructs and the questions to fit this particular study.

The concept of specialization was operationalized using questions regarding the extent of the administrative and operative roles together with the division between these. The operationalization of specialization involved questions regarding the number of paid staff versus volunteers and the division of tasks between the two groups (Slack & Hinings, 1992).

The operationalization of standardization involved questions about efforts made to reduce variations in procedures and to promote coordination. These questions were intended to examine how and to what extent activities are governed and regulated by rules, policies and other formal procedures (Slack & Hinings, 1992).

The centralization concept was operationalized through questions regarding where decisions are made and how the decision making is distributed. Centralization was examined in three ways; at which hierarchical level the decisions were made, the extent of participation in decision making on other hierarchical levels, and the involvement of volunteers in the decision-making process (Slack & Hinings, 1992).

No measure of organizational structure other than each interviewee’s perception was used. Contrary to e.g. Oldman and Hackman (1981) where the president or someone similar provided data on organizational structures for the employees to relate to, the present study assumes organizational structure to be partly a function of the perceptions of the organizational members in question. Inherent in the notion of organizational position, as presented earlier, is an assumption that perceptions of organizational structure are affected by an individual’s place in the organizational hierarchy, distance from the core activities, and function as either paid staff or volunteer personnel. It follows with this line of argument that organizational structure is not seen as a constant variable for the interviewees to relate to but as a perceptual concept constructed by each interviewee.

Perceptions of organizational structure were not measured in the way commonly used in the literature on job satisfaction and organizational climate such as job challenge (Payne & Mansfield, 1973), autonomy (Hackman & Oldham, 1975), feedback (Brass, 1981) and similar. Instead, interviewees were asked to speak freely about organizational structures.


The interview questions were designed to study (a) the picture each interviewee had of the respective club’s structural arrangements, (b) each interviewee’s opinion about those same structural arrangements, and (c) how each interviewee were affected by those arrangements. This procedure made it possible to explore both links in the Job-Modification Framework, (1) the relationship between organizational structure and job characteristics and (2) the relationship between job characteristics and individual perceptions. It also allowed for organizational structures to having a direct effect on individual perceptions regardless of any relationships they might have with job characteristics (cf. Brass, 1981).

The structured interviews, lasting approximately one hour, were conducted face to face in each interviewee’s workplace, in private. The interviews were recorded, transcribed in full and then coded for anonymity. Interview data were analyzed using the techniques outlined by Stake (1995).


The results are presented according to organizational position with regard to hierarchical position, the distinction of line or staff, paid or volunteer, as shown in Table 1. The quotations should be read as examples and illustrations of the opinions found in the data rather than complete reflections of all opinions. Quotations are taken from both respondents in each position without any given order.

The Board Member Position on Specialization

I have worked to move the daily operations down to the office. The club has gotten to large to for [us] voluntary forces to run the daily and operative business. I want the financial committee to function more as a sounding board for XX and YY [two individuals working in paid staff positions] who need to take the day-to-day responsibility.

The Board Member Position on Standardization

First of all, you need to have your heart in the club and be interested in ice hockey..In my position I think it is good to have [a degree in business administration]. Issues like balancing the books or discussing things with accountants would be difficult otherwise ..The general level of expertise needs to be raised.

Documented routines are important..I do not see them as paper tigers, I see them as documents that are observed..Who should authorize payments, orders, investments..We try to do things in a corporate way even if we are a club.

The Board Member Position on Centralization

There is always some friction between the employees and the board, everywhere and in all kinds of issues..If this were a company it would be easy, but now it is kind of both you could say..Volunteers against professional staff.of course there is friction in between.

The sport committee is the centre of gravity in the club.handles sports-related issues.[which are] the most important issues.decides on new recruitments [players] and lay-offs.

The Sales Manager Position on Specialization

There should be more people [working at the office], so that each one could focus on his task so to say..You might want a board that works closer to the actual operations..They have more of a supervisory role [now]..We need more people working [administrative] with our youth operations..They have grown too big for one person to handle.

Everything has to go through us [the office].the youth teams can not go around selling advertisements on their own.

The Sales Manager Position on Standardization

There are always courses and classes for all kinds of things but here we try to learn from each other instead..Education and those things are important but I would go according to background and personality more than education..You cannot just go for a theorist with so and so many [academic] credits..It is more to do with relations.

The club has produced a handbook for the operations.fairly detailed as to what we can do and can not do.which issues go up to the board and such..All the way from the youngest youth team.not only on the ice but also journeys, cups and such. It is a must in such a large club as this..In that way we can avoid all questions and rumors in the corridors.just look it up in the book.

The Sales Manager Position on Centralization

You might want some more steering and concrete ideas [from the board]..One shortcoming, in my opinion, is that the board is quicker to question our work than to give us directions..It is very seldom we get concrete assignments. Instead it is us generating proposals and ideas. It ought to be the other way around more often.

More things need to go through us.we cannot leave the decisions to the dads and mums.there are a lot of capable people but you feel that you cannot let things go..Same goes for transports as for away games and team uniforms..More control is needed.

The Coach of the First Team Position on Specialization

My opinion is that the sport manager should have both the competence and power to direct the sport issues..Not as it is now with ideas coming from down here and up..It is problematic to have us [head coach and assistant coach] doing everything..We should be let to focus on our jobs.

The Coach of the First Team Position on Standardization

We must keep ourselves updated. The problem is lack of time..Coaching at top-level leaves little time for education..Of course competence is important but I think you need to calculate from case to case whether courses, degrees, or experience is to be preferred..But you have to adhere to the standards [set by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association (SIF)].

Not everything is written down, it is more like the players know these things..As long as they take care of things there are no problems..It is tacit and unspoken..It is often solved within the group..Policies and routines are important but most important is having strong individuals supporting [the policies and the routines].

The Coach of the First Team Position on Centralization

When it comes to hockey I have all the authority I, organizing traveling, pre-season, cups etc..Outside hockey, very limited..You can have ideas and, for instance, shopping lists for players but when you don’t know all the financial stuff it is problematic..I would like to know the [players’] salaries so that I could evaluate from that.

The sport committee evaluates [the team] during the season.but they do not have the same basis for making decisions as me and ZZ [the assistant coach] have..If I want to get rid of a player it is often impossible since they are bound by contracts.[then] you just have to put up with it.[but] it is not unusual for us to get the blame for it [a less successful recruitment].

The Volunteer in the Youth Program Position on Specialization

I think all sport clubs with a first team in the premier division would benefit from separating the youth and the elite operations..Run the elite operations on business lines.and let the youth operations lead their own life..It is all business [otherwise]..Making ends meet in the youth operations is no problem.

The Volunteer in the Youth Program Position on Standardization

We generally start with the parents.with some kind of interest and/or know-how. After one year we send them to Step 1 [Basic Youth Leader Course at SIF].which is a requirement [if they want to continue].next year Step 2 and so on..It is important for us to educate both kids and parents..How [else] are we supposed to foster our own elite coaches?

I personally think that it is good that the club has that everybody pulls together..Do the right thing at different ages, when to send in the best players etc..I think it is really important for the club’s survival..We have rules for how to practice and play.but more importantly we have policies for behavior and what it means to play ice you best.

The Volunteer in the Youth Program Position on Centralization

We [the youth operations] apply for money each season [from the board]..They set the budget.and we manage ourselves..The board is 98 percent concerned with issues related to the first team and the juniors [Team 18 and Team 20].they trust us to do the best we can.
This club is based on mutual trust…when it comes to money, education, tasks.I need to trust that he or she is doing their best.I have enough to do doing my own job.


This study has examined the relationship between the positions of individuals in an organization and their perceptions of organizational structures. Organizational position was defined by hierarchical level, line or staff position, and by paid or volunteer position. This discussion will show how an individual’s organizational position relates to their perceptions of the structural dimensions specialization, standardization and centralization. On a few occasions, quotations in the Results above overlap into two or more of the analytical paragraphs below.

High vs. low hierarchical positions


People in all positions express a feeling of working to capacity and would rather see someone else doing more. The statements from the interviewees indicate that people in high positions transfer responsibility and tasks downwards and people in low positions refer responsibility and tasks upwards in the organization.

Explaining these findings by means of hierarchical position seems to be difficult but a few pointers can be found in Cumming and Berger (1976) where Meta study results show that people in higher positions derive satisfaction, among other things, from smoothness of workflow while people in lower positions derive satisfaction, among other things, from the amount of work they do. It seems that directing tasks elsewhere might help both groups achieve satisfaction, for people in lower positions as it reduces their workload and for people in higher positions as it makes the workflow smoother.

People in higher positions are argued to be more satisfied with their job than people in lower positions are (Herrera & Lim, 2003). The results in present study however provide no indications to support that view.


Formal education and formal competence is more important at the top and at the bottom of the organization, and is seen in both places as a requirement for the work. At middle levels background, personality and experience are seen as more valuable than formal qualifications.

Standardization, formal structuring, routines, procedures and management practices are often said to be associated with job satisfaction (e.g. Stevens, Philipsen, & Diederiks, 1992). Educational level is also found to be related to job satisfaction, with high educational levels related to high satisfaction levels (Herrera & Lim, 2003). None of these findings however shed any light on the differing perceptions in this study.


People in higher positions express a need to control the activities of people in positions further down in the organization, while the people in lower positions refer to the need for mutual trust. It seems, however, as if the trust mostly works one way – upwards.

The need for control as expressed by people in higher positions can be understood with reference to the findings in Rice and Mitchell (1973) where people in higher positions are found to attach greater importance to external results (turnover, profit, on-ice success and such) than people in lower positions. The reason for this could be found in Inglis (1994) where higher visibility is given as a reason for differences between professionals and volunteers. Likewise, visibility could offer one possible explanation of why people in higher positions are concerned with controlling the activities of people in lower positions. The higher visibility means that the people in higher positions are more strongly associated with the success or failure of the organization, making the need for control understandable.

Another possible explanation could be sought in organizational commitment where Jackson and Williams (1981) have found that higher positions are more positively related to organizational commitment than lower levels are. This commitment in the present study could be illustrated by the greater need for control.

Line vs. staff positions


Differences in opinions regarding specialization between line and staff personnel are not easily separated from differences related to the distinctions paid or volunteer positions and high or low positions. There are nevertheless some expressions which indicate that both groups would like to focus on their “own” tasks, even if some people in staff positions would also like to have some supervision over some of the tasks performed by people in line positions.

It is argued that people in staff positions derive less satisfaction from their jobs than people in line positions (Porter & Lawler, 1965). The results in this study, however, provide no support for more or less satisfaction in either group.


The main difference in perceptions concerning standardization between the people in line and the people in staff positions is how the two groups see the time dimension in formal education and training. The interviewees in line positions talk in terms of continuous training and education during their current appointment while the interviewees in staff positions refer to the level of competence demanded for their respective appointments. In simple terms, line personnel expect training and education on the job while staff personnel expect to have achieved the level of competence required before they take up an appointment.

One possible understanding of this difference is pointed out in Fahlén (n.d.) where historical and cultural reasons are given as explanations of differences in attitudes towards formal education. Sport in Sweden has traditionally, until very recently, been managed solely by volunteers and training and education, where it existed, was delivered by each respective national sport federation with a strict focus on practical coaching (Blom & Lindroth, 1995; Fahlström, 2001). This could have resulted in certain expectations among individuals involved in practical coaching and other expectations with individuals involved in supporting positions.


Comparing the opinions on the locus of control between the board member position and the coach position gives us some insight into the power struggle between line and staff personnel. The sport committee, consisting mainly of board members, is seen by the board members as the main decision maker when it comes to the recruitment and laying off of players. The coach position, on the other hand, hints that the true decision lies with him and his assistant coach but admits that decisions in the sport committee which is beyond his influence throw spanners in the works. It is obvious where the coach position thinks the power should be.

One possible explanation for these differing perceptions could be a conflict between two functions stemming from the clash between two different sources of power. People in staff positions might derive their power primarily from the fact that they perceive themselves as being in charge of acquisition and the control of resources and thus important for the success of the organization and thereby powerful. Similarly people in line positions might perceive themselves as being very central to the organization in terms of being the people who know the game and who should therefore be in charge (cf. Slack, Berrett & Mistry, 1994).

Paid vs. volunteer positions


Both paid and volunteer personnel are fairly unanimous that the other group should do more. The division of tasks, however, between the two does not seem to be all that simple. The paid personnel, perhaps empowered by their salary and their longer hours, seem to think that keeping and/or moving tasks to the office implies a guarantee of quality. Both groups however agree on the need for more paid staff in order to cope with the heavy workload.

Cuskelly, McIntyre and Boag (1998) found similar results where volunteers feel marginalized by the paid staff and paid staff feel frustrated with the volunteers not meeting their deadlines and not doing their jobs. The two groups seem irreconcilable but Farrell, Johnston and Twynam (1998) argue that it is the responsibility of the management to manage facilities and operations in a way that satisfies volunteers in order to make them stay. However that may be it seems that communication and task definition need to be addressed. The easy way would, of course, be to engage more people for both functions, a solution which, needless to say, is easier said than achieved.

It should however be noted that earlier findings have shown that commitment to an organization decreases inversely with level of remuneration and also inversely with number of working hours (Chang & Chelladurai, 2003).


Differences in opinions on standardization between paid and volunteer personnel are not so easy to discern. All positions apart from the coach of the first team position express the importance of routines, guidelines, rules, handbooks etc. The coach position on the other hand refers to traditions, tacit and unspoken knowledge, and group norms. It would take further investigation to reach an understanding of why perceptions within the paid positions differ.


Not only is the division of tasks a source of conflict between paid and volunteer personnel but perhaps even more evident is the division in opinions about where decisions should be made. The volunteers in the youth operations want to mind on their own business whereas the people in the office cannot accept decision making being in the hands of parents.

This finding conflicts with some findings in Auld and Godbey (1998) where both professionals and volunteers agree that professionals have more influence over decision-making. Both groups also agree that the relationship should be more balanced, the professionals even more than the volunteers. The commitment to voluntary governance is stronger among professional staff than volunteers. The professionals want the involvement of experienced volunteers with more insight and knowledge about the particular sport. As a comment on these disparities Cuskelly, Boag and McIntyre (1999) argue that it seems that the opinions and behavior of volunteers do not integrate into the explanatory system of organizational behavior as easily as those of employees do.

One possible explanation for the differing perceptions can however be found in the findings of Amis, Slack and Berrett (1995) where the professionals’ need for control is explained by financial dependence. Since professionals are dependent on the success of the organization for their own financial wellbeing their need for control is assumed to be greater.


The present analysis can offer a few pointers on how organizational structure is perceived by individuals in a sport organization and how their organizational position is related to these perceptions. In these conclusions I will also try to elaborate on the implications these perceptions may have for the development of these organizations..

Regarding the structural dimension specialization most people would like somebody else to do more, making their own focus narrower. The indications are the same, whether you compare high and low, line and staff, or paid and volunteer positions. The exception is the people in paid staff positions at the upper middle level who would like to keep more tasks in the office, as they put it. It would seem that the organization is perhaps too thin around the middle, needing more people on the upper middle level to carry out managerial and administrative duties.

Perceptions of standardization show that formal education is seen as being more important at the top and at the bottom of the organization and that people in staff positions see formal education as a prerequisite while people in line positions see training and education as a part of their job. It would seem that prospective educational measures should be directed towards the upper middle hierarchical level, or simply that formal education is not needed to the same extent at that level. Another possible implication is that there should be an attempt to raise the requirement for formal education among people in line positions and to extend on-the-job training and education among people in staff positions. Why routines, guidelines, rules, handbooks etc. are considered less important by people in paid line positions at the lower middle level than by the rest of the interviewees remains to be explored. It might be implied, however, that the operations around the first team are dependent on the specific person in the position at the time rather than on the performance of the organization.

Centralization of control and decision making is where the differences in perceptions are most obvious. All groups want to have control over decisions concerning their own tasks but people in high, staff, and paid positions would also like to have control over people in low, line, and volunteer positions. The implications of this seem to be that decision making, control, and power are moving from volunteer board members to paid administrators, away from the actual line operations to the staff positions, and from both high and low levels to the upper middle level of an organization. Auld and Godbey (1998) have however shown that balance, between paid staff and volunteers, regarding control, power, and decision making is not necessarily needed in order for an organization to be successful.

The extension of these findings and their contribution to our knowledge on the interplay between organizations and individuals in general and sport organizations more specifically is primarily that organizational structure affects individuals within an organization and that organizational position is related to the perceptions these individuals express.

Secondly, this study has shown how the distinctions high and low, line and staff, and paid and volunteer can be used to define organizational position and how the concept of organizational position could be used in illustrating how different positions in an organization relate to each other and to internal and external influences, pressures and phenomena.

Finally, these results can be used to gain an understanding of some of the reasons behind personnel (primarily volunteers) turnover in sport organizations and what the organization in question could do about this. While it is already recognized that volunteers are indispensable to both Swedish and international sport not much effort has so far been spent on finding out how they can be attracted and retained.

Even if organizational factors have been found to be more important than individual ones in other studies (Cuskelly, 1995), generalizations from this study should be made with care. Since such a small and specific sample as the one used in this study is sensitive to such variables as age, gender and income and not just to hierarchical position, line or staff function, or paid or volunteer position (cf. Ebeling, King & Rogers, 1979). The linear relationships assumed on a few occasions in this text should also be read critically. Even if earlier findings have shown results at one end of the scale it is not always correct to assume the opposite results at the other end of the scale (cf. Porter & Lawler, 1965). Similarly it is hard to tell separate and combined effects apart. While some perceptions can be the result of one organizational distinction others can certainly be result of two or three.


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2015-03-24T10:15:13-05:00June 10th, 2005|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Facilities, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Organizational Structures in Sport Clubs – Exploring the Relationship between Individual Perceptions and Organizational Position