Support for Major Sport Event Referendums: A New Zealand Bid for the Commonwealth Games
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In recent years, referendums have been used to inform decisions to bid on major sport events. Despite the belief that major sport event success is associated with host community support for the event, local residents are usually excluded from decisions, including whether to bid. Bidding decisions are often made by a small group of politicians, lack transparency and reflect global trends rather than local community wishes. Decision-making related to major sport event bids is best understood in the context of the wider political climate and citizen engagement. Representative democracy is changing, insofar as citizens are increasingly demanding a greater role in decision-making. That role may take the form of a referendum, a process that enhances collective citizen decision-making and reduces political power. The extent to which citizens support and ultimately participate in a referendum is important for various community and government stakeholders. Recognizing the value of referendums for estimating community engagement with a major sport event, this research explores the use of referendums to inform decisions to bid for major sport events. This research is underpinned by three studies. Study 1 investigates the determininants of resident support and participation in a major sport event referendum. Study 2 explores the determinants of resident support for hosting a major sport event. Study 3 attempts to understand stakeholder perspectives on using a referendum to inform a bid decision. Whilst referendums have long been used as a means to engage citizens in political decision-making, little is known about support for such a process within a major sport event context. Therefore, this research drew upon theory and concepts from political science and psychology to explore support for such a process. This research provides evidence that constructs found to be connected to referendums and citizen engagement in decision-making in these fields are also important within the context of major sport events. Taken collectively, the results of this research provide clear evidence of polarising opinions related to major sport event referendums. The majority of New Zealanders support and would likely participate in a referendum to bid for the Commonwealth Games, and yet those who might initiate the process are unanimously against it. The results have implications for prospective host cities, sport managers, policymakers, and ordinary citizens.