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Governance strategies towards organising for action sports: A national structure for New Zealand skateboarding

This study examines the processes and politics involved in the sportisation and institutionalisation of skateboarding in Aotearoa, New Zealand. In 2016, the IOC announced that skateboarding would debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games, and its governance was given to the ISF World Skate (i.e. a partnership between the Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports and International Skateboarding Federation). However, in many countries, including New Zealand (NZ), skateboarding was largely an informal activity, ungoverned and lacking structure, and with some resistance to Olympic inclusion. This research explores and documents the views of various skateboarding-related stakeholder groups, and governmental and national sport bodies regarding establishing a governing structure for NZ skateboarding between 2016-2022. Employing a social constructionist approach, I draw on qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews, participant observations, document analysis, and secondary data exploration, to document the perceptions of key individuals involved in the organisational development and/or institutionalisation of NZ skateboarding. Twenty-five interviews were conducted across sport and skateboarding-related organisations involved in this process, including Skateboarding New Zealand (i.e. SBNZ, a new skater-led organisation), New Zealand Federation of Roller Sports (Skate NZ), New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC), Sport New Zealand (Sport NZ), regional skateboarding associations, skate schools, and skateboarding event owners/organisers. The project includes an organisational ethnography focused on the evolution of the skater-led association SBNZ between late-2018 and mid-2022. Drawing on sport sociology, sport management and organisational studies, this project maps the development of skateboarding culture, industry, its organisation and those stakeholder groups that provide for NZ skateboarding. It reveals the unique structures and social dynamics evident in the community-led events, media and venues (i.e. skateparks). The research also reveals the processes and politics involved in developing “legitimate” forms of governance in the NZ skateboarding context. There are competing external factors as SBNZ seeks to manage its “regulative legitimacy” with the Mainstream Sport Governing Bodies (MSGBs): Skate NZ, Sport NZ, NZOC, and World Skate Oceania. Simultaneously, SBNZ experiences cultural challenges to its “cultural legitimacy” or “authenticity” with the NZ sport-skateboarding community. The traditional (and familiar) “umbrella” and federated sport models provide the MSGBs with the comprehension and predictability they need to govern SBNZ. In contrast, for SBNZ, adopting the traditional sport model is challenging and development-inhibiting as the organisation lacks the pre-existing infrastructure, necessary funding, expert knowledge/support, and the desire to institutionalise in such a manner. However, there are some mutual benefits in the SBNZ/Skate NZ relationship, mainly where there is room for flexibility regarding the umbrella governance’s processes and responsibilities. The research suggests a need for MSGBs to be more open to recognising alternative forms of governance and structure for action sports. However, this will require a philosophical shift in how MSGBs view governance, structure and sport, and funding models. As well as contributing to the international literature on the institutionalisation of action sports, this study will also usefully inform future developments in the national and international sports context to facilitate inclusion, recognition and support for current and future forms of sport engagement for both action and mainstream sports.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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