‘Playing the Game (Plan)’: A Figurational Analysis of Organizational Change in Sports Development in England

Daniel Bloyce, Andy Smith, Rebecca Mead, Jenna Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


Drawing upon aspects of figurational sociology, this paper examines the practice of sports development at a time of rapidly changing social and political policy. In particular, the paper examines how sports development officers (SDOs) experience and attempt to manage organizational change. The study was based on semi-structured interviews with sixteen SDOs in the West Midlands and North West of England. The kinds of organizational change experienced by SDOs were associated with a perceived bureaucratization of their role, and increased pressure to develop partnerships with a variety of sporting and non-sports organizations. These developments, which were also related to concerns over the availability of resources and the increasing accountability and “target-hitting” culture within sports development, can only be understood adequately as resulting from the largely unintended outcomes of government policy, which prioritizes the development of non-sports objectives, rather than those related to the achievement of sporting goals. It is concluded that the growing complexity of the networks involved in sports development may undermine the extent to which government is able to achieve its sporting priorities because it is dependent on the actions of other, seemingly less powerful, groups such as SDOs, who simultaneously seek to protect, maintain and advance their own individual and/or collective interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-378
JournalEuropean Sport Management Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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