Navigating stakeholder relationships in times of organisational change: Understanding the impacts on event leverage for grassroots sport development.

  • Elle Stevens

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


It has been well-established in the literature that claims regarding increased sport participation from hosting major sport events are often overstated or downright false. Indeed, researchers have demonstrated that, without event leveraging specifically aimed at enhancing sport participation, such outcomes are, at best, unlikely. At the grassroots of sport participation – local sport organisations – it has been established that, for effective leverage to enhance sport participation, these stakeholders must overcome organisational capacity deficiencies. In this respect, comparatively little is known about the role of sport governing bodies in prioritising this capacity building task among grassroots constituents.

In response to environmental change pressures, national sport organisations (NSOs) are becoming increasingly professionalised. However, the implications of NSOs’ strategic responses to these pressures on the processes and performance of their respective state sport organisations (SSOs), remains unclear. As SSOs are undoubtedly an important conduit for facilitating capacity building for leverage, it is important to consider how an NSO’s increased professionalisation impacts these state organisations.

This thesis investigates how pressures for professionalisation at the national level influenced how Tennis Queensland (TQ), an Australian SSO, prioritised its event stakeholders and leveraged its two major sport events, the 2020 Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Cup and the Brisbane International (BI), for sport participation outcomes. Data were collected through 17 semi-structured interviews and content analysis of organisational documents and media reports. Utilising stakeholder theory and organisation theory, the findings demonstrate how professionals entered an SSO as a result of an NSO’s strategic response to external pressures to professionalise. However, as local sport clubs were identified as a low salient event stakeholder, these professionals, who were hired for specialised grassroots development roles, were assigned event-related responsibilities during the planning and implementation stages to fulfil the needs of other event stakeholders whose demands were deemed more salient. Due to the dynamism and complexity of the evolving stakeholder environment, efforts for event leverage were ultimately ineffective.

This research provides a theoretical understanding around possible reasons as to why efforts to leverage sport events for sport participation often fall below expectations, or are insufficient or even non-existent. By doing so, this study addresses an extant gap highlighted by Teare and Taks (2021) that studies examining participation from sport events are to be more theory-driven. Additionally, the findings provide an understanding of how an NSO’s strategic response to pressures for professionalisation impacts its SSOs, as well as an SSO’s utility in building the organisational capacity of its grassroots stakeholders for leverage – both of which are underdeveloped areas in the sport management literature..

Practical implications regarding how managers in sport governing bodies, as well as sport event owners and organisers, should manage human resources can also be obtained from this thesis. Results demonstrate that managers in grassroots development roles must be able to focus on their primary responsibilities without being diverted into event organising tasks, which will involve significant resource planning by event organisers. Those assigned to event leverage must also implement steps to measure strategic success and identify areas for remediation, particularly through developing comprehensive strategic control systems.
Date of Award2 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDanny O'Brien (Supervisor) & Lisa Gowthorp (Supervisor)

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