The emergence and perpetuation of a destructive culture in an elite sport in the United Kingdom



Feddersen NB, Morris R, Littlewood MA & Richardson DJ (2020) The emergence and perpetuation of a destructive culture in an elite sport in the United Kingdom. Sport in Society, 23 (6), pp. 1004-1022.

Recent inquiries into elite sports in the United Kingdom have unearthed examples of destructive cultures. Yet, earlier research left destructive cultures overlooked. The purpose of this article is to: (1) outline the process of how a destructive organizational culture emerges and perpetuates in one Olympic sport in the United Kingdom, and (2) the features that regulate the process. We combined Action Research and Grounded Theory in a 16-month longitudinal study. The primary data collection strategies were ethnography and 10 focus groups, with athletes, coaches, parents and the national governing body (NGB). Twenty-six individual interviews with stakeholders supplemented these. A destructive culture emerged during radical changes, and antagonism in the power relations between the NGB and stakeholders characterised this process. Denial of responsibility and social weighting neutralised the stigma of perpetuating antagonism. In conclusion, sports organizations should be vigilant of how ignoring and denying antagonism could lead to a destructive culture.

Culture; destructive conflict; elite sports; organizational psychology; sports management

Sport in Society: Volume 23, Issue 6

Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online29/10/2019
Date accepted by journal16/09/2019
PublisherInforma UK Limited

People (1)


Dr Robert Morris

Dr Robert Morris

Associate Professor, Sport