Consumer Response to Transgression in Sport: A Grounded Theory Study

  • Russell Cowley

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Although transgression in sport is not a new phenomenon, it is currently attracting a significant amount of attention. With a wide number of maleficent forms, transgression in sport has the potential to inflict serious consequences upon multiple stakeholders in sport. In terms of the scope of this research, this study focuses on the impact that transgression has on one of the aforementioned key stakeholders- the sport consumer. Unfortunately, our understanding of how transgression impacts upon sport consumers is thus far limited, with a majority of studies attempting some insights via quantitative methods. Hence, this study contributes to filling the gap in our knowledge. Given the dearth of work about the responses of sport consumers to transgression in sport, this study employs a grounded theory exploration of sport consumers’ perceptions and behaviours in their response to transgression in sport. This study provides a grounded theory of “Behavioural Zone of Tolerance”, in turn conceptualizing and presenting a Consumer Response to Transgression (CRT) model. The results here identify that sport consumers perceptions and behaviours are driven by a highly dynamic interaction of internal factors - Fanographic and Proximal - and their interaction with external contextual factors, which gives rise to a process of cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, four behavioural typologies emerged from the data - Dislocator, Rationaliser, Neutralists and Erratic Ethical. The theory is developed using procedures advocated by Straussian & Corbin, and is based on a total sample of n=42. The data collection was performed via triangulation of two phases: Five (n=34) focus groups constituted the first phase, followed by semi-structured interviews (n=8). During the focus groups, observational data was also collected to capture critical behaviours of the participants to assist focus group transcripts. All data points were coded using open, axial and selective techniques that allowed the theory to emerge. The emerged theory offers contributions to sport consumer behaviour, cognitive dissonance, social identity and identity theory, by explaining the key characteristics that drive consumer response processes when transgression occurs. Furthermore, the conceptual framework developed offers a point of reference to investigate consumer behaviour in the wider sport business and management context. Practical recommendations are also provided based on this theory elucidating behavioural typologies that can assist sport organisations reaction strategies when, and if, transgression emerges.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSimon Chadwick (Supervisor) & Samantha Gorse (Supervisor)

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