Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Public Management Review

For a Special Issue on

Public Management and Global Sporting Mega-Events

Manuscript deadline
30 April 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Dr Alex G. Gillett, School for Business & Society, University of York, United Kingdom.
[email protected]

Kevin D. Tennent, School for Business & Society, University of York, United Kingdom.
[email protected]

Michael Macaulay, School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
[email protected]

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Public Management and Global Sporting Mega-Events

This Special Issue proposes to explore public management in the empirical context of global sporting mega-events, such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup.  Overall, the size of these events has grown about 60-fold over the past 50 years, thirteen times faster than world GDP (Müller et al, 2023).  Papers may address any aspect of such events, so long as the underlying focus remains on public management and its related theories.

There has been a recent upsurge in concern around the management and governance of large-scale sport tournaments, not least of which are the innumerable controversies around the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.  These events, often termed megaprojects (Flyvbjerg & Stewart, 2012; Grün, 2004) usually require the formation and finance of a temporary project organization to plan and execute the large-scale and complex fixed-duration event, and increasingly this also involves overseeing its ‘legacy’ for a broad range of stakeholders in the post-event period although evidence suggests that despite increased rhetoric the sustainability has gradually decreased since the 1990s (Müller et al, 2021). These temporary organizations require the application of knowledge and capabilities from the past as well as anticipating the future (Grabher and Thiel, 2015).

The motives of decision-makers for undertaking megaprojects, including global sporting mega-events, are summarized by Flyvbjerg’s (2012; 2014a) “four sublimes”, which influence their objectives: Technological, Political, Economic and Aesthetic.  The emphasis or detail of each can change over the duration of the project from initial conceptualization to delivery and legacy management (Gillett and Tennent, 2017).  Of these the Political and Economic arguments are often used to justify hosting events in terms of using public money and resources, for example projections of generating immediate income for businesses through visiting attendees and resulting local multiplier effects. These can be longitudinal in the form of raising awareness amongst would be tourists and investors, in the form of lasting legacy of the infrastructure developed from the event (Molloy and Chetty, 2015), or from managing the profits as a legacy fund for social investment (Gillett and Tennent, 2022).

Such temporary project organizations are therefore complex to manage and might require the creation and dissolution of specific not-for-profit organizations for different project stage. They involve relationships of fluctuating intensity and duration with diverse stakeholders including national, regional and local government, development agencies and emergency services (Gillett and Tennent, 2022).

Motives focus on long- and short-term potential benefits and legacies, which can be tangible/ measurable, or intangible/difficult to measure (Preuss, 2007). Projected benefits are not guaranteed to materialize, and as a result, global sporting mega-events carry risks, yet they continue to receive public subsidy.  Indeed, critics of global sporting mega-events have questioned the actualization of proposed benefits identifying reasons why Games might not justify political support and public investment as their advocates claim. The literature points to the rationale for continued investment as partly being the intangible, and therefore difficult to quantify, nature of legacy (i.e., that megaprojects become in some way symbolic) as well as the more tangible outcomes from economic “boosterism” that might not be immediately measurable and may be difficult to untangle from other variables (Baade & Matheson, 2004; Kuper & Syzmanski, 2012; Zimbalist, 2015). Global sporting mega-events thus offer rich potential for debates around the ethics of public sector involvement, beyond the essentials required to fulfil statutory duties, such safety.

Running through these issues is that of long-term governance, not only of megaprojects but of sporting organisations themselves.  Sports governance establishes the procedures by which sporting organisations can run major tournaments (Chappelet, 2018); collaborate and negotiate with multiple stakeholders (Henry and Lee, 2004); and abide (or not) by specific governance principles (Thompson et al, 2022).  Governance speaks to all four of Flyberg’s sublimes, and has a particular impact on building legacy. The 2012 London Olympics continues to be accused of reneging on legacy promises of turning accommodation into affordable housing (Foster, 2022).  Megaprojects such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as well as long-running competitions such as the English premier League, are continually mired in accusations of ‘sports-washing’.

This is nothing new.  Historically, mega-projects have served propagandistic purposes —for example, to legitimize political ideologies, such as the fascism of Italy and Germany in the 1930s (Archetti, 2006; Gordon & London, 2006; Guttmann, 2006),  or Russia who have hosted or participated in events while breaking the Olympic Truce for peace (Gillett and Tennent, 2021) or to showcase and catalyze economic and societal development (e.g., Molloy & Chetty, 2015; Zimbalist, 2015).  Sports organisations continue to be challenged through extreme governance failure; from the bribery and corruption in world rugby union leaderships, to the long-term cover up of abuse in US gymnastics.


Call for Papers

This call encourages submissions from papers exploring public management issues in the empirical context of global sporting mega-events (such as the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, or Commonwealth Games). Papers may address any aspect of such events, so long as the underlying focus remains on public management and its related theories. The SI thus appeals to the core readership of PMR as well offering novelty to attract a broader audience.

This SI will provide new and important theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence regarding public managers’ involvement in the hosting of sporting mega-events.  By doing so, the proposed SI will provide new and important insights with implications for practice and an important context for testing and developing public management theory both traditional (e.g. Public Value) and new (Service Innovation; Human Learning Systems).

Thus, papers need to adopt a public management perspective and whether the objective is for theory developing, challenging, testing or elaborating, we expect papers to make a strong contribution to the public management field.  As such, not considered in scope with this call are purely descriptive reviews of past articles, purely mathematical papers, or purely legal and regulatory focused pieces.

We welcome papers focused on one or more of the following, although this list has been produced as indicative (rather than exhaustive) of the types of research questions we hope that this special issue can address.

  1. Do global sporting mega-events create immediate or ‘legacy’ value for the societies or localities in which they are situated? How is this achieved and how could this be measured? In particular:
    • What types of strategic leadership can (or could be) effective in successfully bidding and hosting global sporting mega-events (and where applicable, their legacy)?
    • Under the strategic level, what are the public management organizing approaches, process or practices, that have a positive impact on societal outcomes? (see Gillett and Tennent, 2022 as an example).
    • What types of evaluation can (or could be) effective?With reference to the mega-project ‘sublimes’ (Flyvberg, 2014; Gillett and Tennent, 2017) what specific political and economic motives are given for hosting global sporting mega-events? Which public management theories can be used to hone and improve the explanatory power of the sublimes in a public management context.
  2. With reference to the mega-project ‘sublimes’ (Flyvberg, 2014; Gillett and Tennent, 2017) what specific political and economic motives are given for hosting global sporting mega-events? Which public management theories can be used to hone and improve the explanatory power of the sublimes in a public management context?
  3. Managing stakeholder relationships: How can the public sector ensure that a societal dividend (including immediate and/or legacy) be implemented successfully by global sporting mega-event organizers situated outside the public sector?
  4. Risks and ethics:
    • What are the risks of using public funds to subsidize global sporting mega-events? Who bares those risks? How can public administrators mitigate or manage these risks?
    • What are the ethical choices or dilemmas that public managers may have to navigate relating to global sporting mega-events? On what basis can the use of public resources (time, money, skills, and the use or development of related infrastructure) be justified?
  5. What are the most appropriate governance principles and processes for sporting mega-projects?  How often are they breached?  What are the impacts of governance failures on sporting organisations?  On competitors? On the perception of the sport itself?

We aim to include six to eight articles, including a geographic spread of authors and issues.  Theoretical and empirical papers are encouraged that embrace a range of methodological approaches - though longitudinal studies would be of especial interest given their dearth in the public management literature (Wond and Macaulay, 2011).

Submission Instructions

To submit a proposal for this edited collection, please email a 1500 word abstract outlining the manuscript’s contents, including its application of theory, empirical context, methodology (including sources of data) and fit within this special issue, alongside a 50-word per author biographical statement, to the editors. Please do this on or before 30th September, 2023.

The SI editors will as soon as possible then review all abstracts and contact authors with a decision on their proposal.  At this point the authors of successful proposals shall be invited to submit full papers via the journal submission system, on or before 30 April 2024.

As per the above timeline, all submissions selected by the editors will be invited to submit a full article through the Public Management Review submission system, which will then be subject to the journal's usual peer review procedures. We emphasise that an invitation to submit a full article does not guarantee publication, and all decisions are ultimately those of the journal editors.


Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article