The role and performance of supporter directors : a social exchange theory perspective

McLeod, Joshua and Jenkin, Andrew and Walters, Geoff and Irving, Richard (2021) The role and performance of supporter directors : a social exchange theory perspective. Sport Management Review, 24 (5). pp. 862-885. (https://doi.org/10.1080/14413523.2021.1880744)

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Abstract

Supporter directors are individuals elected to a sports organization's board to represent the interests of its supporters. Although their inclusion on boards is widely considered to be good ethical practice, recent research shows that supporter directors face distinct challenges that often inhibit them from performing effectively. The purpose of this study was to illuminate how supporter directors can overcome these challenges by, firstly, generating a deeper understanding of the roles of supporter directors in Scottish football clubs and, secondly, analysing how board-level social interaction influences supporter directors role performance. The research method consisted of 17 interviews with individuals who are currently serving, or have previously served, as supporter directors on Scottish football club boards. The findings show that supporter directors perceive their role to encompass three elements: (1) promoting supporters' interests in board meetings, (2) acting as a conduit of information, and (3) complying with their fiduciary duties. Drawing on the social exchange theory, the findings then revealed a perception among supporter directors that successful performance of those roles is dependent on their ability to initiate and sustain patterns of reciprocal social exchange with their board colleagues. The research provides practical recommendations for supporter directors and other types of stakeholder representatives on how to improve their performance.