The influence of board leadership and governance on club capability within New Zealand community sport clubs
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The emergence of the commercialisation and professionalisation of sport has been observed globally by researchers and has resulted in increased academic research within the realms of both leadership and sport governance. To date, however, the majority of this research has been predominantly focussed on national sporting organisation (NSO) boards. The emergence of a more business-like’ delivery of sport has proven challenging to the sporting sector (Breitbarth, Walzel, Anagnostopoulos, & Eekeren, 2015; Shilbury & Ferkins, 2011), notably with community non-profit sport club organisations (CSCs), as they are traditionally governed by volunteer boards that serve to deliver their respective sport codes to the community via limited resources (Lowther, Digennaro, Borgogni, & Lowther, 2016). The challenges facing CSCs, particularly in relation to leadership and governance, have been acknowledged within the New Zealand sporting sector at national, regional and government level (Sport New Zealand, 2015b). New Zealand Rugby, recognising the need to understand the leadership and governance capabilities of its CSCs (rugby clubs), entered into a collaborative partnership with both Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation and Auckland University of Technology’s Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ). Accordingly, this research was undertaken to investigate the current understanding and influence, of leadership and governance at CSC board level, in order to potentially develop club capability. Specifically, the central research question was, “How can community non-profit sport clubs develop club capability within the realms of board leadership and governance”. Three sub-questions supported this overarching question. These involved exploring: what understanding do board/committee members possess concerning leadership and governance; what perceptions do board/committee members possess concerning club capability; and what areas can be identified within leadership and governance with a view to potentially developing community sport club capability. The theoretical foundations upon which this study was grounded were underpinned by traditional leadership and governance theory. However, this qualitative study sought to extend upon emerging sport leadership and governance theory by way of three instrumental case studies, cross-case analysed in a multiple case research approach. The holistically orientated research approach allowed the creation of new knowledge by gaining a deeper understanding, within CSCs, of leadership and governance as an influence on club capability. Founded on a constructivist-interpretive paradigm, data were collaboratively generated between researcher and CSC (rugby club) board members. Primary data were generated utilising fourteen individual semi-structured interviews and an inter-club focus group, supported by participant observation. Data analysis, as part of both the instrumental and multiple case study process, was achieved by way of supplementary documentation, audio-tape transcriptions, focus group videos, and reflective note-taking to identify emerging themes and sub-themes. Outcomes from the study reveal that within the leadership realm, CSCs have a traditional, leader-centric approach in the form of chair leadership and, are underpinned to varying degrees by a servant leadership foundation. Key governance findings from the study reveal that CSCs show considerable disparity in their governance practices and that a progressive approach is required to achieve attainment of collaborative governance. Whilst untested and beyond the scope of this study, these key findings could assist NSOs to focus their resources on chair leadership development, with an emphasis on servant leadership qualities such as emotional intelligence, and to develop club capability by working towards an NSO-styled shared leadership model. These findings also potentially allow for a CSC progressive governance model to be created with the aim of developing club capability by establishing collaborative governance in the form of inter-organisational relationships.