Max Weber

Sport Systems – fragments of thought #5

Mark Upton
Jun 20, 2017

previous fragments – #1, #2, #3, #4

Formal organisations in sport systems (governing and funding bodies) have grown in number and size, and are seemingly unaware of the malaise created by the increasing bureaucracy and rationalisation linked to that growth…

“The more bureaucracy you put between the administrative decision-makers and the athletes the worse it can get. Unfortunately one of the major traps I have seen over the last 45 years of coaching is the proliferation of bureaucracy”

Kelvin Giles

Manifestations of Max Weber’s accounts of bureaucracy and rationalisation are relatively easy to find in sport systems…


I wonder what contribution this is making to the unhealthy state of many sport systems, particularly those striving for so-called “high performance” on the field of play? Who/what does it afford opportunity, and conversely, who/what does it drive out?

So what to do? As I’ve recently embarked on a project that will shift a sports system towards an alternative approach, this idea from Gary Hamel & Michele Zanini resonates…

Imagine an online, company-wide conversation where superfluous and counter-productive management practices are discussed and alternatives proposed. The output of such a conversation wouldn’t be a single, elaborate plan for uprooting bureaucracy, but a portfolio of risk-bounded experiments designed to test the feasibility of post-bureaucratic management practices.