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Seeking a theoretical explanation of governance in Not-for-Profit sporting organisations


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Shimeld, SF 2012 , 'Seeking a theoretical explanation of governance in Not-for-Profit sporting organisations', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The main aim of this thesis is to explore what members of volunteer sporting
organisations understand as governance for their organisations and how and why they
implement particular governance structures and to use the findings to begin the
development of a theoretical explanation of governance in these organisations.
Voluntary sporting organisations in Australia have undergone significant change in
the emphasis placed on governance structures (historically the sole domain of
volunteers). Demands placed on the sector to become more “accountable” by
incorporating and adopting business practices has led to a need to employ professional
staff such as general managers, and to a need to seek business skills in the volunteer
board members. The changes required in governance and in the behaviour of the
volunteers have resulted in governance structures that have received little research
attention and therefore lack a cohesive theoretical explanation.
In order to understand the “what, how and why”, an in-depth qualitative analysis
using a grounded theory approach of four different Tasmanian voluntary sporting
organisations was undertaken. Grounded theory is particularly useful in an area that
lacks both theory development and incorporates terms such as “governance” and
“effectiveness” derived from social constructs. It enables the data to be examined and
theories to emerge from the data without trying to force the data to fit the literature. In
this way unique features of the sector that were previously ignored or not given
prominence may be identified. This was the case: the theme of volunteer management
(labelled human resource management) should be recognised as a theme, not a sub-category of board operations and stewardship theory offered the strongest
explanations for the findings.
With the understanding that volunteers and their management was a central theme
came the understanding of the high level of communication needed to maintain strong
relationships linked to a high level of informality in governance processes. The
pivotal role of a general manager (or board member) in this communication process
through bridging an accountability gap by linking the volunteers (not-for-profit
culture with utility derived from the sport) with the legal requirements and
expectations (derived from the for-profit culture with a control and external reporting
focus) enables the sporting organisation to remain autonomous. It is able to continue
to fulfil its legal requirements and retain its incorporated status while being able to
continue to run the sport at its particular level of the organisation without interference
from higher levels of the organisation. This emerging theory explained how and why
the sporting organisations interviewed in this research governed their sport, and
identified that with the reliance on volunteers there should be explicit
acknowledgement of their role within any theory development along with an
understanding of the difference in the concept of accountability and what that entails.
Volunteers and their strong stewardship role in governance had not been fully
recognised in previous governance studies.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Shimeld, SF
Keywords: governance, accountability, sport, Not-for-profit, grounded theory
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