Organisational identity: a case study of the St Mary’s Football Club, Darwin Northern Territory
Submission note: A thesis submitted to The School of Management, Faculty of Law and Management, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia, in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
This thesis examines the organisational identity of an Australian football club; the St Mary’s Football Club, based in Darwin, Northern Territory. This study investigates the ways in which identity has been constructed, maintained and changed within the context of a successful, community-based sporting organisation. This meant exploring how individuals constructed their collective identity as part of an ongoing association with the football club. To explore organisational identity there were two central research questions. The first question related to how identity was constructed and maintained at St Mary’s Football Club. The second research question asked in what ways had the collective identity been changed or challenged over time. The literature review has been organised into the different theoretical developments of identity, which included national, cultural and ethnic, social, group and organisational identity theories. How identity has been applied to the topic of sport was also examined. From the literature review several broad tensions emerged. It was evident that there had been a dominance of national identity theory in regards to identity in sports discourse; there has been a split between social and psychological interpretations of identity, and a lack of agreed definitions. From the literature review it has been also found that identity has been described as a process, based on individual perceptions of both sameness and difference. Overall, there has been a lack of theorisation about how sporting organisations, at a non-elite level, constructed and maintained identity. There has been also an absence of social and cultural analysis within these types of sporting organisations. This study identified a lack of published qualitative research that had explored how identity was established in a sporting club. Using the single case study of a football club in the Northern Territory, this research asked how a collective identity has been established by interviewing those connected with the club. Over the course of a football season (October 2009 – March 2010) 28 interviews were conducted with members of the St Mary’s Football Club community. The purpose of these interviews was to engage interviewees on their thoughts and opinions on the collective and shared identity of the organisation. As well as the interviews, there has been a triangulation of other sources of data, which included personal email correspondence, observational techniques and document analysis. The interviews were based on semi-structured, open-ended questions that encouraged interviewees to include their personal experiences and memories into the interview. The results are presented in two chapters; one for each of the research questions. The first part of the results (chapter four) presents data that illustrates that identity had been constructed in several key ways. This included identity based on the biological and metaphorical construction of family; the physical space of the clubhouse; on male friendship and bonding rituals and in the changing role of women within the sporting club environment. The second part of the results (chapter five) presents data that shows that the collective identity of St Mary’s had been threatened by several key events identified by the interview participants. These events were the financial crisis, the introduction of the Tiwi Island Bombers Football Club and the creation of the Territory Thunder Football Club. These events challenged the group identity as each event threatened a core element of the overall collective identity of the organisation. The sixth and final chapter examined how these results related back to the existing theories of identity. In doing so, it explores how identities could change as a response to external and internal pressures, while at the same time individuals were able to construct multiple identities that form an ongoing, shared understanding of the organisation.