Academic journal article International Journal of Sport Finance

A Bibliometric Analysis of Sports Economics Research

Academic journal article International Journal of Sport Finance

A Bibliometric Analysis of Sports Economics Research

Article excerpt


In this paper, we carry out a bibliometric study of sports economics research indexed in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) database from 1956 to 2009. Quantitative evidence provided by some standard bibliometric indicators supports the idea that sports economics can be considered as a successful and fast-growing area. The statistical analysis of publications' counts allows us to identify the authors, journals, and countries that have contributed in a decisive way to the progress of sports economics research. Furthermore, most recent authorship and citation concentration trends also reveal an advanced process of consolidation of this research field. In addition to journals specializing in sports-which, mainly in recent years, have become significant channels for publishing sports economics research-articles published in general journals maintain a significant relative weight within the total output. This reveals that the interest of research on sports economics goes beyond this specific field.

Keywords: bibliometrics, sports economics, published research

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


The sports industry has grown and become the focus of substantial research by professional economists. As a result, sports economics is becoming widely recognized as a sub-discipline of economics with an active research agenda. Behind the relatively recent research boom, there is the fact that sports, and particularly professional team sports, are especially suitable for economic analysis (Downward & Dawson, 2000), providing unusual opportunities for both theoretical and empirical research (Fizel et al., 1999). Indeed, sports economics encompasses a wide range of specific research topics,1 and economics can provide powerful new insights into many important issues faced by the sports business (Humphreys & Howard, 2008). The relationship between economics and sports has worked in both directions: Research on sports economics contributes to a better understanding of economics through the data generated by sports and sports through the tools of economics.

The main purpose of this paper is to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of sports economics as a distinct research field within the broader discipline of economics. In particular, we attempt to capture its current situation and the recent developments that sports economics has actively pursued and reinforced. We consider this to be a relevant issue, mainly for two reasons. First, there is not enough previously detailed research that specifically focuses on the rapidly growing field of sports economics, a gap that our work seeks to fill.2 Second, we aim to defend sports economics as a serious and emerging research area because, although sport has become important enough to attract the attention of academic analysts, it is often perceived as a "frivolous" topic (Jewell, 2006).

Unlike previous studies assessing the state of the art, in our descriptive analysis of sports economics publications we adopt a methodological approach based on the use of some standard bibliometric indicators. Bibliometrics is the statistical analysis of scientific literature, and it has become a standard tool for developing a quantitative assessment of academic output in a research field. More than 50 years after the seminal contribution of Rottenberg (1956), it is important to carry out an assessment of this kind for sports economics.

Kesenne (2007) argues that, when a new field of research takes off, the first question to be asked is whether there is any justification for devoting a separate field of economics research to it. Neale (1964) was the first author who pointed out the most important peculiarities that make the professional team sports industry different from other industries. Goddard and Sloane (2005) mention two main reasons why economists should be interested in team sports. First, professional team sports can serve as a laboratory for economists since they can observe operations that are normally out of the public eye and can directly measure the productivity of individual employees due to the richness of the available data as well. …

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