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Exactly hundred and ten years ago, Frederick Winslow Taylor published his influential book, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Harper, 1911), which has legitimised management as a scientific discipline. Taylor’s main concern was the notion of efficiency as applied to organisations. But Taylor’s writing was profoundly influenced by the science of physics and it is somehow astonishing to think that the main intellectual impetus behind the birth of the science of management came from the natural world in the form of physics. The combination of Newton’s law of motion with advances in heat interactions allowed scientist to understand how machines could function with maximum efficiency, and being an engineer, Taylor borrowed this idea and applied it to industrial organisations.

Debates whether management, and sport management in particular, is a science continue to fill the pages of academic and popular journals. What is not disputed though is the fact that management is an integral scientific discipline. More recently, Mintzberg (2011) defined management as a combination of science (i.e., knowledge), art (i.e., vision) and craft (i.e., skills). Each of these three fundamental elements of management is the subject area of a number of scientific disciplines. As a result, significant advances have been made in our understanding of how organisations are structured, governed and change over time as well as how people working in those organisations are motivated, managed and developed.

One of the comprehensive attempts to capture the variety of theoretical perspectives that inform research in sport management has been the Routledge Handbook of Theory in Sport Management edited by Cunningham, Fink and Doherty (2015). The editors have grouped different theoretical perspectives employed by sport management researchers into four categories including managerial theories (with 13 theories), marketing theories (including eight theories), socio-cultural theories (including five theories) and economic theories (including three theories). The list of 29 theories covered by the Handbook is by no means exhaustive and as the articles included in the first issue of the Sport Management Digest testify, the number of available theoretical lenses for interrogating the field is much greater. This is inevitable, given the composite nature of sport management and the unique contexts in which it is practiced and studied.

Below is a summary of the theoretical perspectives used by the articles covered in this review and their comparison with the theories included in the Handbook of Theory in Sport Management. Clearly, not all publications have been based on an explicit theory, and some studies have been either conceptual, that is, using a range of different perspectives, or are atheoretical. It should also be noted that not all listed theoretical perspective represent fully-developed theories rather conceptual frameworks and approaches. The ‘Theory development’ section of the Sport Management Reader will be reviewed by Dr Lisa Kikulis from Brock University, Canada who will join the editorial team later in 2021 for the second issue of the SMD.

Table 1 provides a snapshot of the range of topics addressed and the theoretical perspective used by sport management scholars in the first half of 2021 in the ten selected journals, as identified by section editors. As can be seen, it really is very encouraging to note an array of theoretical lenses employed, and in some cases, a bricolage of theories, to explain seemingly common issues. There is also virtually no overlap between the theoretical perspectives covered by the Handbook and those used by researchers in the articles reviewed (see the list of theories below Table 1).

Sport management topicl Theoretical perspective
Sport governance Resource-pendency theory
Dynamic capabilities
Urban governance
Public policy Institutional theory
Multiple streams framework
Soft power in sport Soft power
Inter-organisational theory
Stewardship theory
Gender equality Inequality regimes
Media depiction of social issues Social cognitive theory (mass communication)
and framing theory
Fans behaviour Interpersonal behaviour theory
Violence prevention Feminist understandings of violence prevention
Impact of corruption on sport demand Systematic corruption
Principal-supervisor-agent hierarchy
Corruption and sponsors value Event study and efficient market hypothesis
Organisational image repair Benoit’s (2006) image repair typology
Athletes off-the field misconduct and sponsors’ risk Barnett’s (2104) theory of stakeholders’
response to organizational misconduct
Role of media in communicating corruption Heidenhemier’s (2002) framework
on perceptions of corruption
Role of referees in match fixing Social Structural constraints: cultural (Skoog, 2005)
& relational (Wasserman & Faust, 1999)
Volunteers selection Perspectives: Strategic human resource management
& Resource-based view
Institutional entrepreneurship Institutional theory (institutional change,
institutional entrepreneurship)
Agency theory and principal–agent alignment Agency theory
Effects of race on coaches’ lateral moves Homologous reproduction theory
Hybrid management work in elite sport Relational sociology
Innovation in national governing bodies of sport Organisational theory (dynamic capabilities)
Gendering of recruitment and selection processes
to boards Organizational logic and inequality regimes
Organizational logic and inequality regimes
Corporate Social Responsibility The Internal CSR and Sponsorship-linked
Health Care Strategy Model
Ambush marketing Ambush marketing framework
Sponsorship fit and team’s identification Congruity theory
Teams’ identification and advertisement Social identity theory
Effects of sport consumption on customers’ emotions and behaviours Self-construal framework;
Affective dispositional theory
Sport sponsorship agendas Agency theory
Effects of team’s merchandise usage on team’s identification Cognitive dissonance theory
Social identity theory
Image congruence between sports event and host city Co-branding theory/ image transfer theory
Schema theory
Reasoned action/planned behaviour
Communication effectiveness and CEO’s commitment Cause-related marketing (CRM) theory
Sports-related accident and sponsorship effects Fear appeal theory
Information processing model
Customers’ experiences in a retail shop Customer’s experience model
Effects of quality and leverage on image transfer in sport Image transfer model
Signalling theory

Theoretical perspectives covered in Routledge Handbook of Theory in Sport Management
Cunningham, Fink and Doherty (Editors, 2015)

Managerial Theories
Theory of Suffering and Academic Corruption in Sport
Strategic CSR in Sport
Stakeholder Management in Sport Organizations
Mega-sport events
Neo-Institutional-Translational Theory of Policy Implementation
Theory of Sport Policy Factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS)
Developing a Theory of Board Strategic Balance
The Conception, Development, and Application of Sport-For-Development Theory
Multidimensional Model of Leadership
Organizational Justice Theory Development
Managing Diversity
Work-Family Conflict Theory
Sport and Sense of Community Theory

Marketing Theories
Sponsorship-Linked Marketing
Team Identity Theory
Sport Consumer Behavior
Brand Equity in Sport: Conceptualization
The Psychological Continuum Model: An Evolutionary Perspective
Sport Fan Socialization: Becoming Loyal to a Team
The Sports Product Framework

Sociocultural Theories
The Gendering of Leadership in Sport Organizations: Poststructural Perspectives
Inclusive Masculinity Theory
Critical Race Theory in Sport and Leisure
Gatekeeping and Sport Communication
The Continuum Theory

Economic Theories
Balanced Scorecard Approach to Evaluating Events
Towards a New Theory of Sport Anchored Development for Real Economic Change
Competitive Balance Theory


Mintzberg, H. (2011). Managing. Harlow: Pearson Education.