The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the theoretical and practical application of Critical Realism (CR) as a new methodological perspective in research on sport volunteering. To date, much of the sport volunteering research has been underpinned by a polarity of positivist and interpretivist methodologies which has contributed to narrow ontological perspectives of the sport volunteering phenomenon. Data from a 3-year multiple case study of three equestrian sport clubs are used to illustrate how CR provides a new perspective of control in this context. To complement the CR philosophy, Altheide's Ethnographic Content Analysis (ECA) was employed in data analysis. Using the CR ontology of multiple realities and ECA, control in sport clubs is theorised as complex, dynamic and contextually sensitive. The results of this analysis reveal the objective, observable elements of control, the subjective interpretations of control and the underlying generative mechanisms which are thought to have given rise to the forms of control and how they are used within the clubs in this dataset. Building on Downward's introduction of CR to research on Sport Tourism, this paper contributes to the literature on sport volunteerism by offering a more extensive discussion of CR as a new methodological perspective worthy of further application across a range of issues related to sport volunteerism.
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This is an electronic version of an article published in the European Sport Management Quarterly, 13 (1), pp. 5-31. The European Sport Management Quarterly is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/16184742.2012.744765#.U5sarUpwY3E
- critical realism
- sport clubs