Corporate Social Responsibility in Sport: Stakeholder Management in the UK Football Industry

By Walters, Geoff; Tacon, Richard | Journal of Management and Organization, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Corporate Social Responsibility in Sport: Stakeholder Management in the UK Football Industry


Walters, Geoff, Tacon, Richard, Journal of Management and Organization


ABSTRACT

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become increasingly significant for a wide range of organisations and for the managers that work within them. This is particularly true in the sport industry, where CSR is now an important area of focus for sport organisations, sport events and individual athletes. This article demonstrates how CSR can inform both theoretical debates and management practice within sport organisations. It does so by focusing on stakeholder theory, which overlaps considerably with CSR. In this article, stakeholder theory is used to examine three major CSR issues: stakeholder definition and salience, firm actions and responses, and stakeholder actions and responses. These three issues are considered in the context of the UK football industry. The article draws on 15 semi-structured qualitative interviews with senior representatives from a number of different organisations. These include the director of a large professional football club; a chief executive of a medium-sized professional football club in addition to the supporter-elected director; and the vice-chairman of a small professional football club. Additional interviews were undertaken with five representatives from national supporter organisations, two board members at two large supporter associations, two representatives from the Football League, one representative from the Independent Football Commission, and a prominent sports journalist. The analysis of the interview data illustrates ways in which CSR can be implemented by sport organisations through stakeholder management strategies. The article concludes that stakeholder theory has both conceptual and empirical value and can be used to illuminate key issues in sport management.

Keywords: corporate social responsibility, stakeholder theory, stakeholder salience, stakeholder management, sport organisations, football

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown rapidly in importance over the last 20-30 years. Sparked by high profile failures in corporate governance, there is now a stronger focus on issues of corporate accountability, transparency, and the short-term basis upon which corporate performance is measured (Clarke, 2004). The public have become less tolerant of instances of corporate excess and irresponsibility and, as a consequence, organisations are under increasing pressure to consider their role within society (Blowfield & Murray, 2008). Indeed, there is evidence that a growing number of organisations are undertaking and reporting CSR activities (Margolis & Walsh, 2003), with over 80 of the FTSE 100 listed companies in the UK producing a CSR report separate from the annual report (Owen, 2005). During this period, the perception of CSR has evolved from a charitable or philanthropic activity to a core element in management strategy with the understanding that CSR activities can add value to a business (Porter & Kramer, 2006). Protecting corporate reputation, competitor differentiation, brand loyalty development, competitive advantage, and improved financial performance are some of the benefits that an organisation can realise through a strategic CSR approach (Dean, 2003; Mullen, 1997).

Although there has been an increase in the number of organisations implementing CSR activities, there is no universally accepted defi- nition of the concept in academic management literature. Twenty years ago, CSR was broadly defined as the responsibilities that a business has beyond profit maximisation (Carroll, 1979). More recently, academic debate around the concept of CSR has given rise to multiple and distinct interpretations. For example, Godfrey and Hatch (2007) illustrate five different interpretations with shareholder capitalism at one extreme and business citizenship at the other. So now, while CSR still serves as a core construct, it has transitioned significantly to alternative themes, such as stakeholder theory, business ethics theory, corporate social performance, and corporate citizenship (Carroll, 1999; Jonker & Marberg, 2007). …

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