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Discover how rapid growth is changing the sport industry

This is an excerpt from Contemporary Sport Management 5th Edition With Web Study Guide by Paul M. Pedersen & Lucie Thibault.

Future Challenges and Opportunities

Pitts and Stotlar (2007) observed that the world of sport is growing rapidly. This growth is reflected not only in the introduction of many new sports but also in the increasing number of opportunities to participate in sports and activities, an upsurge in the number and variety of sport-related publications and social media platforms, enhanced mass media exposure and source publicity of sporting activities, growth in the number and types of sport facilities and events, increased interest in sport tourism and adventure travel, and the provision of sport-related goods and services for a greater variety of market segments. New amateur and professional sports have emerged, sport opportunities are being offered to a more diverse population, endorsements and sponsorships are on the rise, sport industry education is becoming more prevalent and sophisticated, marketing and promotion orientation is growing in the sport industry, sport managers are becoming more competent, and the globalization of the sport industry is progressing rapidly.


While the continued growth and advances in the field will create numerous job opportunities for aspiring sport managers, the future will also present sport managers with many challenges and opportunities, some that have already emerged and others that we cannot even imagine. In subsequent chapters, you will learn about a variety of such challenges within specific segments of the sport industry. Some challenges will affect all sport managers, irrespective of the segment of the industry in which they are employed. These challenges and opportunities are associated with technology, ethics and social responsibility, and the globalization of sport.



More than a decade ago, Westerbeek and Smith (2003) provided a hypothetical glimpse into the future with their prediction of a sport scenario in the year 2038. While their predictions (e.g., virtual stadium and police, hologram appearances, cloning, genetic modifications, gene and protection chips) have yet to be realized in accordance to their futuristic presentation, the technology explosion of the past several decades has been mind-boggling, and this is only the beginning! From e-commerce applications to interactivity opportunities, the social media sections in each chapter of this textbook illustrate only one part of this technology explosion in the sport industry. Advances in technology have affected all aspects of the field, from enhanced experiences for spectators in the stands (e.g., Wi-Fi networks in sport facilities to meet fans’ smartphone and tablet demands, massive video boards and state-of-the-art sound systems) and at home (e.g., increased usage of HD and 3-D technologies, multiscreen viewing experiences) to better training and care of athletes (e.g., management and editing of training programs, preventive medicine and surgical advancements, fitness activity trackers) and safety of all stakeholders (e.g., protective helmets in football to safer cars, tracks, and methods in auto racing), and sport products (video games, equipment, transportation, logistics, scheduling, manufacturing, etc.), team business, player analytics, research, and the list could go on and on.


Regardless of whether the future will be exactly as Westerbeek and Smith predicted, their scenario does provide food for thought. One notion to consider, however, is that technology is not an end unto itself. It is a means to an end - an innovation that facilitates progress and helps us realize other accomplishments. Take, for instance, the athletic equipment innovations. Athletic Management examined the 25 most significant developments in team equipment over the past 25 years (Read, 2013, p. 64). The highest ranked innovation involved the football helmet, which has witnessed advances in its design to reduce the number of concussions in the sport. Read noted, however, that "the best helmet is of little use if it’s not properly fitted. Along with increasing training for coaches on the right way to fit a helmet, manufacturers have introduced upgrades that better adapt to the specific shape of each player’s head" (p. 65). In addition to helmets, some of the other innovations listed by Read included uniform features and styles, compression apparel, softball and baseball bases, storage systems and laundry supplies, gloves and balls, bats and sticks, protective headgear in lacrosse and other sports, throwing machines, mouth guards, eye and face protection, equipment labeling systems, radar guns, and shoes.


In the future, scientific advances in computers and communication technology will play an increasingly significant role in our society and in sport management. This progress will likely be accompanied by acknowledgment of the human need for high-touch activities, many of which the sport experience can provide. The challenge, therefore, is to become proficient in using technology while remaining aware of the need for human interaction in people’s lives and understanding how sport can facilitate such interaction.


Ethics and Social Responsibility

Since there are more opportunities to use the platform of sport for good (e.g., charitable work, sport for development, sustainability awareness) while striving to eliminate illegal and immoral incidences in the sport industry (e.g., cheating, criminal activity), many people are calling for greater accountability on the part of sport managers. In recognition of the need for a heightened focus on ethics and social responsibility in sport, DeSensi and Rosenberg (2003) advised that "being socially responsible is paramount to the execution of one’s job" (p. 127). Thus, there are now academic courses offered in this area. For instance, in 2013, The George Washington University launched a 12-course sports philanthropy academic program "tailored to the unique needs of those who work for professional sports teams, leagues, athlete foundations, sport-related companies with an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, nonprofits using sports for social good and those looking to enter the field" (Hunt, 2013, para. 1). Overall, sport managers must deal with a multitude of questions that require an understanding of ethical principles and moral psychology. Consider the following questions:

  • How can we best achieve gender, race, and class equity in sport?
  • Do professional team owners owe primary allegiance to themselves or to the communities that support the team?
  • How can we balance academic integrity with the demands of intercollegiate competition?
  • Should athletes sacrifice their health for victory?
  • Is winning really the bottom line of sport?
  • Is intercollegiate sport an entertainment business for public consumption or an extracurricular opportunity for student development, or both, or something else?

The list is seemingly endless, and no doubt you could add your own concerns to it. Regardless of the question or issue at hand, as DeSensi and Rosenberg (2003) noted, "Developing a social consciousness and being socially responsible assists sport managers with the creation of a sound professional philosophy and subsequent ethical action" (p. 127). In the same vein, Malloy and Zakus (1995) suggested that sport management students should understand the need to "challenge the assumptions, both overt and covert, of sport and society to enable themselves to make ethically sound decisions" (p. 54). The desire and ability to engage in principled decision making often distinguishes superior sport managers from their peers.


Now is the time to begin reflecting on ethical concerns because you surely will face them in the years to come. The sidebar "Guidelines for Making Ethical Decisions" contains an approach developed by scholars in the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University (Making an Ethical Decision, 2009). In subsequent chapters, you will be referred to this sidebar to help you examine ethical concerns in specific sport settings. The guidelines serve well as an introduction to the place of ethics in a sport manager’s decision-making process.


We are hopeful that in the future, enlightened sport managers will be aware of their social responsibilities and will deliver their services in ways that reflect this understanding (see the sidebar "Code of Ethics, North American Society for Sport Management" for a listing of NASSM’s ethical codebook items covering a sport manager’s approach to individual welfare, competency, communication, propriety, integrity, trust, confidentiality, respect, fairness, service, and other canons or principles). For example, sport managers worldwide will be conscious of environmental concerns and will incorporate this understanding into their business practices. Environmental concerns that are important to sport managers include air and water quality, land and water use, waste management, energy management, transportation design and services, accommodation design and services, and facilities construction. Indeed, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has the following objectives for its Sport and Environment Strategy:

  • To promote the integration of environmental considerations in sports
  • To use the popularity of sports to promote environmental awareness
  • To promote the development of environmentally friendly sports facilities and the manufacture of environmentally friendly sports goods (Toepfer, 2003, para. 5)

Environmental sustainability actions in the sport industry are becoming more prevalent as organizations increasingly recognize the importance and benefits of such initiatives (Ciletti, Lanasa, Ramos, Luchs, & Lou, 2010). While there are numerous possible examples, the international foundation Sustainability in Sport was founded by Gary Neville and Dale Vince in 2012. Neville noted that his organization believes that "sport as an industry must not only grasp the green agenda, but should be leading it" ("Bringing Sustainability," n.d., para. 2). Some of the ways the foundation looks to promote sustainability in the sport industry are by "seeking to establish eco-standards for all activities relating to the operation of sports clubs" and "using the power of sport to spread information about environmental issues and the need for sustainability to the widest possible audience" (para. 7). In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides examples and resources (and the EPA Green Sports Scorecard) regarding sustainability efforts in the sport industry ("Green Sports," 2013). As can be seen in the EPA’s scorecard and in numerous publicity efforts, many sport entities - ranging from the NFL to intercollegiate athletic departments to NASCAR - are active in their efforts to engage in and promote sustainability efforts.


Additional evidence of future sport managers’ sense of social responsibility will include the routine provision of professional childcare services in sport facilities and the targeting of previously untapped and undertapped target markets, such as women and people of differing ages, abilities, and sexual orientations. Sport managers of the future will also recognize the importance of keeping the sport experience accessible to all socioeconomic groups.


Globalization of Sport

The need to understand and appreciate other countries and cultures cannot be overstated (Danylchuk & Boucher, 2003; Thibault, 2009). In recognition of this fact, most chapters of this book contain information on the sport industry in other nations. You can take several steps to prepare yourself to interact effectively in the global community. For example, although students in many countries consider mastery of the English language a basic skill, most students in the United States do not master languages of other countries. Consequently, U.S. students can distinguish themselves from their peers by learning a language other than English. Studying in another country for an extended period and completing courses that focus on other cultures are among the additional steps that you can take to broaden your horizons and enhance the quality of your life. Pursuing this path will also increase your value in the marketplace.


The globalization of sport brings with it many benefits. For example, more countries and athletes are participating in international events. Sport is being used as a vehicle that crosses traditional lines of gender, religion, and geographical barriers, and it is bringing people around the world together in a common interest. As you contemplate the positive aspect of the globalization of sport, however, you should understand that some advances in international sport may have come at the expense of poor people in developing countries. As with other issues that have been discussed in this chapter, critical thinking from an ethical perspective will be required to address problems such as the exploitation of third-world labor in the production of sporting goods, the recruitment and migration of athletes that results in a talent drain on their home countries, the effect of the interrelationships among transnational corporations, media, and sport organizations, and the effect of sport on the environment (Thibault, 2009).


The future will most assuredly bring change. This can be frightening, and is frequently resisted. Progressive sport managers who can anticipate and embrace adaptation will have opportunities to be agents of change who will transform the way that sport is managed. We hope that you will be one of those managers!

Learn more about Contemporary Sport Management, Fifth Edition.

More Excerpts From Contemporary Sport Management 5th Edition With Web Study Guide