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The applicability of the high performance organizations framework in Dutch soccer clubs

The sport sector is economically and emotionally speaking of great value to society. In this sector, soccer has a special place as it is by far the most popular sport worldwide. It therefore does not come as a surprise that soccer clubs are looking for ways to improve their results and safeguard their continuity. It does however come as a surprise that in the field of improving sports management and specifically soccer club management hardly any research has been done. In fact, there is even no common definition what a high performance soccer club entails.

This paper describes research which aims to fill this gap in the literature. Based on the high performance organizations (HPO) framework, discussions were held with experts working at soccer clubs whether this framework be applied in the context of the soccer industry to improve the management of soccer clubs. The research results show that the experts acknowledged that the five factors of the HPO framework are of importance to soccer clubs in order to specifically safeguard their continuity. Continuity, not improvement turned out to be the end goal clubs are striving for when they are aiming to become a high performance soccer club. From the framework, Management Quality is the most important one as experts see high quality managers as the precondition for the pursuit of continuity, and the other factors are placed in service of this main factor. The research results also mean that soccer clubs can now start using the HPO framework in their quest to becoming excellent and thereby guarantee their continuity.


The sport sector is of great value to society. Not only is this sector economically speaking one of the fastest growing sectors in the past decade, physically the sector fulfils an increasingly important role in the strive for a better health (Adcroft and Teckman, 2009). In the sport sector, soccer has a special place as it is by far the most popular sport worldwide with most participants, television exposure and viewers. In fact it can be stated that, commercially viewed, soccer is the biggest business of them all (Beech and Chadwick, 2004; Kuper and Szymanski, 2009). In view of this importance, it would be natural to assume that much research has been performed in the area of excellence, both on the soccer field and in the management organization of soccer clubs. This assumption is correct for sports in general. There is an abundance of studies into the improvement of sport and image marketing (Stewart, 1987; Ferrand and Pages, 1999; Greyser, 1999; Richard et al., 1999; Shannon, 1999; Johnson Morgan, 2006; Kwak and Kang, 2009), how to make a team great on the sports field (dell’Osso and Szymanski, 1991; Lyle, 1997; Espitia-Escuer and García-Cebrián, 2006; Bosscher et al., 2009), how to attract more spectators to the game or the sport fields (Theodorakis, 2001; Ko and Pastore, 2004; Funk et al., 2009), improving the relevance of sports to society (Walters and hadwick, 2009), improving the sport club employee attitude (Audasa, 1999; Monk and Olsen, 2007; Todd and Kent, 2009), and even into decreasing racism in sports (Spracklen, 2008). But in the field of improving sports management and specifically soccer club management hardly any research has been done. In fact, Chadwick (2009, p. 191) remarks: “To date, this literature has been confined to the margins of management theory and research.” There is some literature that tracks the difference in results on the soccer field to the budget available to the clubs (Carter, 2001; Ascari and Gagnepain, 2003; Frick and Simmons, 2008; Kuper and Szymanski, 2009; Panagiotis, 2009) or that looks into the way the soccer industry is structured in a country (Gammelsæter, 2009), but no literature was found on ways to improve the management of soccer clubs. There has been an attempt to apply total quality management principles in sports clubs.

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