Professionalism versus amateurism in grass-roots sport: associated funding needs

Carolyn J. Cordery, John Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerations of professionalization within sport are typically limited to the commercialization processes that generate the funding regimes and impact the expenditure patterns of professional sports teams. By contrast, using historical data, this article analyses how professionalism and the professionalization of elite rugby has impacted the amateur game, in general, and challenged the core values of amateurism and the associated funding needed for the amateur/grass-roots game, in particular. It compares funding and expenditure patterns in amateur sports clubs for a particular sport – rugby football union, aka rugby. This article utilizes a case study analysis of amateur clubs in the Wellington Rugby Football Union, a provincial union of the New Zealand Rugby Union. It finds that professionalism is exhibited in the amateur game both as a top-down phenomenon and a bottom-up phenomenon as new actors have entered the institutional field. The study also notes that whilst such changes have been gradual, the costs of these changes are now outpacing clubs’ ability to fund them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-123
JournalAccounting History
Issue number1
Early online date18 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2016 The Authors.


  • amateur sport finances
  • sustainability of sport
  • rugby union
  • club sport


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