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Gatekeeping sport governance-the (re)production of (mis)representation in board nomination processes

Research project The focus of this project is what arguably has been and continue to be one of Swedish voluntary organized sport's biggest challenges: members' (un)equal access to the decision making bodies that govern their sport participation.

The current situation thus calls for knowledge on how representation in Swedish voluntary sport is constructed. This project addresses this need by analyzing and theorizing NSO board nomination processes and their relation to board composition. Compared to the very few previous studies on the present topic, we are not a priori focused on the over- or underrepresentation of any particular social category. We instead investigate how and why election committees use certain explanations and strategies of action as they perform their task of nominating individuals for election.

Head of project

Cecilia Stenling
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2016-01-01 2018-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research subject

Pedagogy, Sports and fitness sciences

Project description

The problem with skewed representation is especially troubling in systems built on the principles of democracy because it constitutes a threat to the legitimacy of the governance system as such. Illustratively, resent statistics show that 59% of National Sport Organization (NSO) have a gender skewed board (>60% male board members) and 11 out of 71 NSO boards have zero or one female on their board (CIF, 2016a). At the sport club level, 75% of clubs lack board members under the age of 25 (CIF, 2016b). Undisputedly, these facts are completely at odds with claims of being a people's movement "for all".

Our position is that skewed representation, as exemplified in the preceding, represents a threat to the legitimacy of Swedish voluntary sport's entire governance system. Because legitimacy is key in maintaining organizational survival and development, skewed representation in extension poses a threat to sport's ability to gain access to resources (e.g., public funding, members, or volunteers) and to develop in sought after directions (e.g., reduce the biased recruitment to sport by reaching underrepresented groups).