National Sport Organisation Responses to Independent Reviews
Sustained government involvement in sport over the past 30 years has modified the sporting landscape, bringing increasing emphasis on accountability and results. Accordingly, National Sport Organisations (NSOs) or central agencies, like Sport New Zealand, can deploy a number of strategies, including (compulsory) independent/ consultant-led reviews, to ‘modernise’ NSOs. Despite the intended role of these instruments in leading and shaping reforms, there is little understanding of how NSOs respond to them. The purpose of this research is to investigate how NSOs respond to independent performance reviews, whether purposefully, passively, politically or perversely. Drawing from organisational management literature (detailing possible NSO responses) and new institutionalism (addressing the impact of institutions/ rules in determining NSO responses), this study seeks to offer an assessment of this instrument in terms of its intended and unintended consequences.This study employed a qualitative approach, with data gathered through document analysis (11 reviews) and interviews with 13 participants from four NSOs in New Zealand. Reviews recommended changes along six main themes: 1) structures, 2) governance, 3) further review or action, 4) strategy, 5) accountability, and, 6) culture. NSOs responded purposefully by: consulting, conducting and commissioning further reviews, hiring staff, changing organisational structures (e.g., creating centralised High Performance Programmes with specific athlete support structures), changing athlete development models (e.g., developing standardised athlete-centred whole-of-sport models), and updating or formalising organisational strategies and governance policies. Conversely, NSOs disregarded structural proposals (e.g. to amalgamate regional associations), as well as other recommendations relating to governance (e.g. to alter functions of the Chairman) and strategy (e.g. to align marketing channels). Some NSOs further passively responded by suppressing reviews (and their findings).Institutional accounts explain the extent/ nature of recommendation uptake. NSOs responded purposefully due to the perceived legitimacy of reviews and independent consultants (reflective of the dominance of audit cultures) and the power relations underpinning these reviews including relationship agreements/ contracts with Sport New Zealand (reflective of NSO resource dependency). Passive responses to reviews can be located within three institutional explanations including: 1) the structural limitations of reviews (lacking enforceability), 2) the institutional make-up of NSOs (where NSOs have limitations on their authority and control), and, 3) the value hierarchies of NSOs.Reviews are thus varied in their influence on modernising NSOs. While they can generate positive outcomes, reviews also have their limits and can generate unintended consequences. This research demonstrates that reviews both unearth and displace problems- speaking to the complexity or ‘wickedness’ in the public management of sport.Reviews are likely to continue to feature prominently in the sports system owing to the scrutiny NSOs are placed under, along with the obstacles they face in reforming. Further research should be aimed at investigating other tools of NSO modernisation along with the effectiveness of NSO reforms. The present study provides a starting point to scrutinise other accountability components of the sports system itself including reviews. More generally, this research may act as a starting point to encourage learning from NSO experiences.
Advisor: Sam, Michael; Stenling, Cecilia
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: School of Physical Education Sport and Exercise Sciences
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: National Sports Organisations; independent reviews; performance management; organisational responses; audit; policy; governance; New Zealand; modernisation
Research Type: Thesis