In this article newly qualified doctoral academic Alex Bond writes about his thesis, its contribution to the literature, its disciplinary (or multidisciplinary) focus, and results which shed new light on ‘The Football Consumer’.

By Alex Bond

The landscape of sport management in the United Kingdom (UK) has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Originally rooted within leisure management, George Torkildsen began a trend of textbooks merging sport and leisure with management principles, founding the UK’s sport management field. However, more recently sport management within the UK has begun to replicate the North American sport administration and management agendas, incorporating core business principles and sport. As a result, sport management, although somewhat embryotic within the UK, cuts across multiple social science disciplines, including but not limited to; finance, marketing, economics, sociology and psychology.

Surprisingly, there is limited sport management research and literature that uses theoretical and methodological paradigms from these multiple disciplines. Now, considering sport consumption cuts across; sport marketing, sport economics and sport sociology; the lack of multidisciplinary research creates a gap within the sport management literature and scientific body of knowledge on sport consumers. This gap was emphasised by Stewart, Smith and Nicholson (2003), who proclaimed that sport marketing scholars needed to incorporate sport economic demand theories in their professional sport consumption models. However, this limitation has been somewhat overlooked and remains underdeveloped, with Kim et al., (2013) suggesting similar situational factors need to be incorporated when sport marketers attempt to model professional sport consumption.

To date, some sport economists’ have attempted to incorporate sport marketing’s socio-psychological consumption motivations within their demand studies. However, some, such as Lera-López., Ollo-López & Rapún-Gárate (2012), whilst important for the field fail to employ a validated scale or even attempt to measure spectator motivations effectively. Unlike Solberg & Mehus (2014) who use Trail & James’ (2001) Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption when researching broadcasting demand in Norwegian football. In this vein, my thesis follows a logical empiricist philosophy, building a consumption model based on empirical quantitative evidence from sport marketing and sport economics. To do so, theoretical triangulation (Downard & Mearman, 2005) of sport marketing theories; team identification (Wann & Branscombe, 1993) and socio-psychological motivations (Trail & James, 2001); and sport economic theory; determinants of demand (Borland & McDonald, 2003); were used to construct an empirically robust tridimensional conceptual structural equation model.

The model was designed in relation to the heterodox consumption theory, which is tridimensional embodying psychological, sociological and economic perspectives (Thibaut, Vos & Schreeder, 2013). Each dimension represented a theoretical lens akin to the heterodox economic model; psychology – team identification; sociology – socio-psychological motives; economic – determinants of demand. This was coupled with aspects of marketing’s means-end chain theory (Guttman, 1982), which focusses on the causal relationship between attributes, values and consequences, again each representing an aforementioned theory; attributes – team identification; values – socio-psychology; consequences – determinants of demand. The result of binding a heterodox and means-end consumption model underpinned by sport marketing and sport economic theories; is the multidisciplinary consumption model for professional sport.

To test the conceptual structural equation model, 950 English football fans were surveyed, split further into 514 season ticket holders and 436 non-season ticket holders; demonstrating excellent demographic representativeness of the professional football population in the UK (The FA, 2008). The model was then developed through a 3-stage modelling process as proposed by Hair et al. (2014) and Blunch (2013), starting with exploratory factor analysis followed by confirmatory factor analysis, concluding with a structural equation modeling.

The result of the structural equation modelling analysis provides two separate multidisciplinary consumption models, representing the alternative types of ticket holders. Whilst there are specific findings in relation to the consumption structure of the alternative ticket holders, which provides important insight academically and professionally, these will be published later this year. More generally my thesis addresses the gap in research identified by Stewart, Smith & Nicholson (2003) and Kim et al. (2013), by providing a structural consumption model integrating marketing and economic theories. Consequently, my argument is the sport management field needs to develop multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary research to further our understanding of sport consumption. To that end, further research questions centre on how do UK football fans begin and develop their identification with a club? and what effect does this have on consumption and prosumption behaviours? Also, is it a rational or irrational choice to become a football fan?

Hopefully this adapted abstract from my PhD articulates my research area and interests. Indeed, there remain limitations and this study has raised further research questions. But for now, I hope this serves to begin conversations with like-minded colleagues interested in this area. If you have any questions, suggestions, research dissemination (i.e., conference and journal outlets) and/or research ideas feel free to contact me direct.

To contact the author email: a.j.bond@leedsbeckett.ac.uk or to link up on Twitter  @AlBondSportBiz. You can also link with the author on Linkedin and Academiaedu.