ProFeSS – Professionalisation of sport federations in Switzerland

A collaborative FNS project between the Universities of Bern and Lausanne


Context: International and national federations are non-profit organisations carrying out social and commercial activities. They are key actors within the sports system and its relation with external entities and actors such as state/government, sponsors and media.

Sport federations are facing great challenges these days: growing competition in top-level sports, democratisation of sports with “sports for all” and sports as a tool against social problems (integration, education, health, unemployment, etc.). To respond to these challenges, professionalising sports organisations seems to be an appropriate strategy.

Definition: In this research project, we define the professionalisation of sports organisations as an organisational process leading towards organizational rationalisation, efficiency and project management.

Objectives: The purpose of this research project is to gain a better understanding of professionalisation processes in sport federations at different levels (international, continental, national) based in Switzerland. What are the causes (internal and external), forms (e.g. diversification, formalisation) and consequences (e.g. rationalisation, bureaucratisation) of professionalisation processes?

Key words: professionalisation, sport federations, multi level approach, factors, forms and effects of professionalisation

Scientific fields: Management/Sociology/Economics

Concepts: Action Theory/ Contingency Theory/ Institutional Theory/ New Institutionalism/ Organisational Theory/ Resource Dependence Theory

Units concerned: international/ continental/ national sport federations, clubs, umbrella organisations


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