Processual evolution of meta-organisations in sport
: a lifecycle approach

  • Nima Farajpour Bakhtiari

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Within organisational fields, organisations may seek collective action in order to influence their environment. Formalisation of such process may entail the emergence of ‘meta-organisations’, which are organisations that have other organisations as members. The majority of the organisational literature has mostly addressed these organisational settings using theoretical constructs that, either explicitly or implicitly, assume that members of organisations are individuals. Ahrne and Brunsson (2005) pioneered a theory for meta-organisations that offsets some of the shortcomings of classic organisational theories. This study applies the theory of meta-organisations to the empirical context of sport in order to add depth to the current understanding of the evolution of meta-organisations across various stages of their organisational lifecycle.

    This qualitative inquiry is informed by the concept of Processual Analysis (Pettigrew 1997) and focuses on Global Association of International Sport Federations (GAISF) as a single embedded case-study. The study takes a longitudinal approach by collecting data across two phases of retrospective and real-time. Using semi-structured interviews and open-ended questionnaires, primary data was collected from Presidents and Secretary Generals of international sport federations. Also, secondary data was collected from the archives of the Olympic Library. Additional secondary data sources included press archives, organisational documents and historical books.

    This research showcases the usefulness of meta-organisation theory for the empirical context of sports. Also, it highlights the applicability of the organisational lifecycle model as a valuable analytical tool for conducting processual research. The findings of the study show that meta-organisations can be the result of transformation of loose networks into formalised entities. It is also learnt that heterogeneity in terms of interests and resources is critical in both the process of emergence as well as stability of the meta-organisation. Furthermore, the impact of outer and inner context on the evolution of the meta-organisation is remarked. Finally, it is shown that active non-members can have a significant impact on the trajectory path of the meta-organisation. Through inserting agency as well as creating implicit hierarchies, active non-members may restore the organisational boundaries to the environmental settings prior to the emergence of the meta-organisation.
    Date of AwardApr 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorPaul Salisbury (Supervisor), Donna Wong (Supervisor) & Benoit Senaux (Supervisor)

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