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Accounting and the Business of Sport: Playing the Numbers Game

Special issue call for papers from Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

Guest Editors:

Paul Andon, Associate Professor of Accounting, University of NSW, Australia, and
Clinton Free, Professor of Accounting, University of NSW, Australia


Recent decades have witnessed a rapid escalation in the commercial value of professional sport such that sport now plays a central economic and cultural role in many societies around the world. Major sporting competitions and events are now multi-billion dollar international concerns (e.g., The Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, the PGA (golf) and ATP (tennis) tours, the NFL, MLB, and the EPL). Major international and domestic sporting contests are rapaciously ‘consumed’ by large and enthusiastic audiences across a growing range of platforms. The broad appeal and high visibility of professional sports also make them highly coveted by advertisers, sponsors, broadcasters, and compelling opportunities for governments to spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on elite athlete development and sporting infrastructure. More than ever, sport is valued not purely for the contest itself but also for its various, commercially valuable by-products. 

Being at the intersection of popular culture and commercial fields, the business of sport displays important characteristics that distinguish it from other business endeavours. It is heavily tied very tangible and episodic measures of success (e.g., scores, ranks, times, and placings), encapsulated in various symbolic tokens (e.g. medals, trophies, plates, flags), records and statistics. The prestige and status accrued from sporting success can be leveraged for large commercial returns. However, economic fortunes in sport are driven by host of ineffable factors including changeable passionate interests connected to perceptions of a sport’s entertainment value, moral integrity, and team/athlete performance. Despite recent research awareness of how unique features of the business of sport are being accommodated by accounting and accountability frameworks mobilised in this domain (Carlsson-Wall et al., 2016a; Carlsson-Wall et al., 2016b), opportunities remain for further research on this issue. Possible accounting and accountability innovations emerging ‘at the margins’ (Miller, 1998) of financial governance of sports organisations have also received little attention.

As money flowing into sporting fields has grown exponentially, so too has the spectre of corrupting influences. Salacious examples of drug cheating, salary cap breaching, match fixing, and bribery on a national and even global scale have been witnessed all too frequently in recent times. Gambling has also attained a much firmer and more visible hold within the field in recent years, particularly as it has become increasingly coupled with mobile/internet technology, to make sports betting more sophisticated, appealing, and accessible than ever. What effect are these corrupting influences having over the proper governance of sports organisations and institutions? What can be learned from failures in accounting and accountability to stymie the advance of these corrupting influences? Where/how can accounting and accountability be part of the fight against cheating and corruption in professional sport?

Recent years have evidenced a rising interest in mobilising sporting contexts for extending our understanding of a range of accounting-related practices and issues, such as those relating to crisis management (Andon & Free, 2012; 2014), insolvency practice (Cooper & Joyce, 2013), audit practices and principles in new assurance spaces (Andon & Free, 2014; Andon et al., 2015; Jamal & Sunder, 2011), and accountability (Cooper & Johnston, 2012). As such, further research could not only usefully enrich our understanding not only of accounting and accountability matters in sporting contexts, but use the contexts as critical settings that can contribute to scholarship and thought leadership on accounting and accountability matters of broader significance. To this end, although some research interest has been shown in the role of accounting in the balance between amateurism and commercialism/professionalism in a number of sporting contexts (e.g., Cordery & Davies, 2016; Halabi et al., 2015; Rika et al., 2016; Siddiqui & Humphrey, 2015), further research is also required into the interplay of accounting and professionalization, and/or the maintenance of amateurism in sport.

What is this special issue about?

In line with this growing interest in the intersections between accounting, accountability and various aspects of sporting endeavour, and following the growth of research activity focusing on connections between accounting and popular culture more broadly (Jeacle, 2012), this special issue of AAAJ invites papers, both theoretical and empirical, that focus on accounting and the business of sport. We seek original research from any theoretical or methodological approach that addresses issues of accounting and sports.  An indicative list of themes (but not limited to) includes:

  • Corporate governance in sports organisations
  • The exercise of accountability in sport
  • Performance reporting in sport
  • Valuation of playing talent and/or broadcast rights
  • Salary cap systems and enforcement
  • Corruption and approaches to dealing with corruption in sport
  • The interface of gambling and sports
  • Player performance analytics
  • The commercialisation of eSports and other emerging sporting domains
  • Professional v amateur logics in sport
  • Volunteer and grass-roots sports administration


  • Submissions for this issue open on 1 January 2017, and close on 30 June 2018. Manuscripts in English should be submitted via Scholar One Manuscripts
  • Author guidelines can be found here. When submitting, please choose this Special Issue from the list to avoid delay. The editors welcome enquiries and declarations of interest before submitting. These should be addressed to Clinton Free at [email protected] Early submissions are encouraged.



Andon, P. & Free, C. (2012). Auditing and crisis management: The 2010 Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 37(3), pp. 131-154.

Andon, P. & Free, C. (2014). Media coverage of accounting: The NRL salary cap crisis. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 27(1), pp. 15-47.

Andon, P., Free, C. & O'Dwyer, B. (2015). Annexing new audit spaces: Challenges and adaptation. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 28(8), pp. 1400-1430.

Carlsson-Wall, M., Kraus, K. & Karlsson, L. (2016a). Management control in pulsating organisations—A multiple case study of popular culture events. Management Accounting Research(in press), pp. 1-15.

Carlsson-Wall, M., Kraus, K. & Messner, M. (2016b). Performance measurement systems and the enactment of different institutional logics: insights from a football organization. Management Accounting Research, 32, pp. 45-61.

Cooper, C. & Johnston, J. (2012). Vulgate accountability: Insights from the field of football. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 25(4), pp. 602-634.

Cooper, C. & Joyce, Y. (2013). Insolvency practice in the field of football. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 38(2), pp. 108-129.

Cordery, C. J. & Davies, J. (2016). Professionalism versus amateurism in grass-roots sport: Associated funding needs. Accounting History, 21(1), pp. 98-123.

Halabi, A. K., Lightbody, M., Frost, L. & Carter, A. J. (2015). Legitimizing amateur status using financial reports: Victorian Football League clubs, 1909–1912. Accounting History, 21(1), pp. 25-47.

Jamal, K. & Sunder, S. (2011). Is mandated independence necessary for audit quality? Accounting, Organizations and Society, 36(4/5), pp. 284-292.

Jeacle, I. (2012). Accounting and popular culture: Framing a research agenda. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 25(4), pp. 580-601.

Miller, P. (1998). The margins of accounting. European Accounting Review, 7(4), pp. 605-621.

Rika, N., Finau, G., Samuwai, J. & Kuma, C. (2016). Power and performance: Fiji rugby’s transition from amateurism to professionalism. Accounting History, 21(1), pp. 75-97.

Siddiqui, J. & Humphrey, C. (2015). The business of cricket and the shifting significance of accounting. Accounting History, 21(1), pp. 5-24.