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Policy stability in a time of turbulence: the case of elite sport policy in England/the UK

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posted on 13.11.2014, 09:04 by Pippa Chapman
The research analyses stability and change in the English/British elite sport policy landscape in the period 2005 to early 2014. In the context of a recession and change of government, the policy environment could be described as turbulent and cuts to public funding and commitment to deregulation have been key features of the overarching policy landscape. There was an assumption that elite sport would not be immune from the policy turbulence. The policy landscape is described as consisting of three elements: organisations, public funding and political salience. The original contribution of the thesis is threefold: first, in relation to the empirical study of the relative impact of the political and economic turbulence on the elite sport system; second, in the application of institutional theory and punctuated equilibrium theory to the analysis of elite sport policy; and third, the application of theory to explain the extent of stability uncovered through the empirical research. The research used a case study approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 senior officials from sport in England/the UK from both sport-specific NGBs and organisations with wider, national remits for elite sport and incorporating both government and non-government organisations. Due to the sample of interviewees, the nuances of elite interviewing were an important consideration for the researcher. A document analysis study was also carried out. Through the existing literature and the data gathered, three cases emerged and were examined in depth: youth talent search and development; nurturing and transferring talent; and sustaining world class athletes. Thematic analysis was used to examine the data. The data revealed that the policy landscape was, for the most part, stable in the period studied. There were changes to the intensity of financial and political support and refinements of policy objectives, especially due to the hosting of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but the overall policy aims remained consistent. The reasons identified for this stability were as follows: the absence of an alternative, critical lobby; strong leadership in the sector; and the hosting of the London 2012 Games. The long-term impact of Labour s Modernisation agenda was found to have contributed to the stable governance of elite sport, which includes a structure for decision-making and accountability around funding of NGBs by UK Sport. Historical Institutionalism was found to offer the most useful meso-level framework for analysis of the data and clear critical junctures and path formation phases could be identified.


Loughborough University



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Pippa Chapman

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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