Nomination Committees: A Governance Feature of New Zealand National Sport Organisations

Molloy, Tracy Ellen
Ferkins, Lesley
Dickson, Geoff
Item type
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

Nomination committees (NCs) are key to “constructing a value-creating and well-composed board” (Kaczmarek & Nyuur, 2016, p. 100). Yet, despite their centrality to ‘good governance’, NC research has been described as neglected in the for-profit sector and as negligible in the nonprofit sport sector. Within the context of New Zealand national sport organisations (NSOs), NCs are at the centre of a power struggle between the traditional community logic and the new corporate logic approaches to director selection. The overarching aim of this thesis is therefore to reduce the NC knowledge deficit and contribute to improved director selection processes and outcomes.

The research project is situated within the critical realist paradigm and has a broad exploratory/explanatory purpose, namely, to examine NC attributes and determinants within nonprofit sport organisations. The research is presented as two studies, each with their specific purpose(s) summarised as follows:

Study 1 (NC emergence and classification) – to verify the emergence of NCs as a governance phenomenon of New Zealand NSOs, to describe the structures of these NCs, and to critically examine the NC structures from a democratic theory perspective.

Study 2 (NC adoption and design – explanatory case studies) – to explain the internal and/or external drivers of this NC adoption and design within a selection of New Zealand NSOs.

Study 1 utilised thematic framework analysis, combined with document analysis and associated strategies, to examine 88 New Zealand NSO constitutions to affirm NC emergence and develop a fourfold NC classification based on NC composition and powers. The four NC types were then critically examined utilising a new democratic concepts schema. The findings demonstrated the different extent to which Warren’s (2017) three democratic objectives and seven democratic practices were promoted within the structures of each NC type. Each NC type reflected either a protective or developmental approach (Held, 2006) to democracy.

Study 2 applied a critical realist approach to four NSO case studies (one NSO from each of the NC classification types). A morphogenesis-morphostasis approach (Archer, 1995), applying multiple organisational change theories, was used to explain the NC change drivers and describe identified symbolic, relational, and material change mechanisms (Hampel et al., 2017). The key findings highlighted the power of inertia (or morphostasis) and the challenges of balancing the co-existing community (i.e., democracy/representation) and corporate (i.e., efficiency/professionalisation) logics. A model was developed demonstrating the role of the identified causal mechanisms, and the relationship between structure (e.g., institutional isomorphism and resource dependency), culture (e.g., institutional logics) and agency (e.g., strategic choice and institutional work) in the adoption and design of the selected NSO NCs.

From these studies and associated literature reviews, the most significant contributions to knowledge are to advance multiple theoretical models for application to sport governance and organisational change generally and to advance the conceptualisation of NC adoption and design. Of particular note are: the response to calls for multi-theoretical approaches to sport governance (Ferkins & Shilbury, 2020; Shaw, 2016); a re-conceptualisation of nonprofit sport board role/objectives/functions (advancing the recent synthesis by McLeod (2020)); the addition of director selection to the integrated board performance model (Hoye & Doherty, 2011); the contribution to nonprofit sport director selection and NC knowledge (advancing the recent synthesis by Molloy, Dickson and Ferkins (2020)); and an NSO NC ‘structural’ contribution to the emerging NSO NC ‘process’ knowledge (adding to Stenling et al., 2020, 2021b).

In summary, this research is important because it contributes to the baseline knowledge about NSO NC attributes (structure) and determinants (change drivers). The results are important for future NC design, for a better understanding of case-appropriate logics balance, for informing future NSO NCs’ structures and processes, and for assisting future evaluations of NC effectiveness. The studies can help scholars and practitioners realise the potential of NCs to improve NSO director selection and governance.

NOTE: Chapters 5 is embargoed till 28 AUG 2025. Redacted version of the full thesis is available.

Publisher's version
Rights statement