A review of the use of sport data in management research

Scholars have been increasingly leveraging sport settings to advance management research. This review provides an overview of the advantages and drawbacks of using such data.

Sport is varied, near universally popular, and analysed obsessively by participants and fans. With the wealth of data generated by sport, it comes as little surprise that it has gained the attention of academics, who increasingly look to it for their research purposes. This is certainly the case in management research, where the use of sports data has increased significantly over the last ten or so years. Scholars have realised that the comprehensive amount of precise and accessible data that is collected for sport can also be utilised for their studies.

In Using Sports Data to Advance Management Research: A Review and a Guide for Future Studies, researchers identify and review 249 papers published over the last 50 years that have used data from sport to advance management theories and shed light on managerial phenomena.

Of course, as well as offering advantages to researchers, the use of sport data is not without its shortcomings. The research paper aims to guide management researchers to both the positive and negative aspects.

The paper discusses how the use of sport data in these studies has contributed to a number of strands of management research, such as the further study of status and reputation, rivalry, risk-taking, decision making, motivation, leadership, and unethical behaviour; all prominent and recognisable facets of both sport and management.

The paper then discusses how sport data might help future management research in multiple ways; namely, by facilitating theory development and testing, by tackling emerging phenomena, by addressing critiques that have been raised at empirical management research in general, and by providing new opportunities for management research.

With greater use of sport data in management research, certain drawbacks have become evident. For example, researchers may fall into the trap of arguing the suitability of sporting data for their research, when in actual fact its suitability is limited. They may also argue that their findings from the sport data extends to business contexts even though, given the type of data used, there is little evidence of this. Finally, although the fact that most sport is well regulated ensures clarity of the mechanisms that can be tested with the data, it also makes it more difficult to compare findings from these contexts with managerial research exploring much less-regulated settings.

The paper provides a comprehensive chart of these and other potential drawbacks, and suggests corresponding approaches that may mitigate them.

This review outlines the opportunities, expectations, and constraints that researchers should keep in mind when developing research using sport data to advance management research.

A published version of the paper is available for download at City Research Online.