Facilitators and Constraints for a Wider Societal Role of Voluntary Sports Clubs: Evidence from European Grassroots Football

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Voluntary sports clubs (VSCs) are increasingly cited by European policy makers as important partners in achieving non-sports related goals. The societal role is assumed to include wider functions (socialization, democratic, and integrative), and the combat against negative externalities which challenge the societal reputation of VSCs. However, VSCs are originally founded to serve members–and not particularly obligated to function as governmental agents. Accordingly, their willingness to adhere to policy goals may differ and they may lack the organizational capacity for wider, valuable societal outcomes. This study inquiries about the degree to which VSCs are committed to take on the wider societal role specified in sport policy documents at the European Union level. Additionally, potential facilitators and constraints are investigated from an organizational capacity perspective. A particular focus is set on gender diversity at the board level. The empirical evaluation draws on data from a survey of n = 4,782 football clubs in Germany, Poland and Italy. The results indicate that VSCs generally intend to take on a wider societal role. However, significant differences across the countries exist, and the commitment to integrate people with a disability and to fight intolerance does not seem to be of high relevance for most clubs. The logistic regression models suggest that VSCs’ structural capacity is particularly beneficial for a wider societal role. Gender diversity at the board level is a valuable capacity in this context. The (relative) importance of different capacity dimensions is highlighted; implications for club managers and policy makers are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)727-746
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 02.10.2019

ID: 4250220

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