Skip to main content Skip to navigation

ESLJ Book Review

ISSN 1748-944X


Handbook of Research on Sport and Business, edited by Sten Söderman and Harald Dolles. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2013. Pp. 608, £170 (hb), ISBN 978 1 84980 005 1

As the title suggests, this compendium of research is focused on the nexus between business and sport, rather than the legal aspects with which this journal is more directly engaged. Yet there is much within this handbook which relates to the role of law within sport, while wider themes such as the governance of sport and the interaction between theory and practice appear throughout.


The book is one of the results of the editors’ work with the European Academy of Management (EURAM) which has led to the establishment of a strategic interest group now known as ‘Managing Sport’. The opening and concluding chapters, written by the editors themselves, make clear that along with disseminating the research produced by this group the key aim of the book is to inspire academics at all stages of their research career to reflect upon their approach to research on sport.


Aside from the introduction and conclusion, one finds twenty-seven distinct chapters organised by the editors into five thematic clusters, along with a final “reflection” chapter cluster. The first of these clusters, ‘Governance and Perfomance’, is perhaps the most likely to be of interest to those with a predominant interest in the legal aspects of sport. However, such readers may be best advised to begin with Chapter 5 as the first three entries in this section pertain to management and organisational concepts, although plenty of useful information can be found regarding research methods relating to comparative studies (in this case of national sporting organisations and programmes).


The aforementioned Chapter 5 documents a qualitative research study by Ann Bourke into sports governance in Ireland, while succeeding chapters discuss the use of case studies in sports research (the example given by Walters and Hamil being English football regulation); a review of publications relating to global governance of football by Gammelsœter and Senaux; and a chapter extolling the strengths of qualitative case studies by Eivind A. Skille. The true value in these chapters, as with much of the handbook, lies more in the explanation of why and how such research methods could or should be used, rather than the specific areas examined.


Part III of the handbook is the shortest section, with three chapters focusing on media and technology in the business of sport. The first relates to social media and marketing with an emphasis on the need to develop or even invent new research models for new developments, while the third, on the application of game theory to the sale of television rights, requires considerable knowledge of economic principles. It is the middle chapter of this cluster, ‘The economics of listed sports events in a digital era of broadcasting’ which concentrates on the role of the UK government in regulating which channels may broadcast major sporting events. As well as providing a summary of the history of this practice, Gratton and Solberg discuss the arguments for and against such listing in a clear and readable manner, which provides interesting background to the legal battles that have been fought over this practice.
The next cluster is titled ‘Place, Time and Spectators’ and focuses almost exclusively on business and economic concerns. For the practitioner of sports law, there is little in this part that will be of direct relevance, yet again the commitment to critical reflection by the authors of each chapter will provide academics and researchers with much food for thought. The fourth thematic section ‘Club Management and Teams’ follows a similar pattern, although the focus on professional team sport may perhaps provide a wider crossover with legal research areas than the preceding section and those whose work requires data analysis will find these chapters of particular interest.


Despite being an area with considerable legal implications, the chapters relating to ‘Sports Branding and Sponsoring’ focus heavily upon business concepts and again the greatest value lies in the discussion of research methodology rather than the specific areas examined. Of particular note is the fascinating participant observation carried out by Dibben and Dolles at a (successful) attempt to break the world land speed record – a chapter which is extremely interesting in its own right as well as being a powerful defence of the validity of such research methods.


Finally, the three reflective chapters that conclude the handbook firstly summarise the opportunities for research into the business of sport and highlight the unique nature of modern sport as a research field, then provide an agenda for future research. One could find scope to argue with the specific thematic clusters adhered to throughout, less due to the actual categories defined (as we all may have our own view on the ‘themes’ of such research) but more because they could encourage compartmentalisation of these areas in the minds of researchers. However, the structure they provide for this particular work is very useful and this is particularly apparent in the final chapter, which can be heartily recommended to anyone struggling to consider where to focus their research interests.

Overall, the variety of theories, research methods, areas of interest and actual sports discussed provide fertile ground for researchers to heed the call of the editors to contribute to the future growth of this area. While those focused solely upon practising sports law may find little in this work apart from any research of direct relevance, anyone with an interest in the research aspects of the area will find plenty here to reflect upon. The admirable commitment to objectively presenting many different research methods and theories makes this handbook an excellent resource for anyone conducting quantitative or qualitative research into the ever-expanding business of sport.


Fred Motson
The University of Westminster

Volume 11




Pedro Fortes
Mike Hally


Bruce A. Carroll
Sven Preiss
Ian Lawrence


Steve Redhead
Fred Motson