This research serves to determine causal configurations of corporate social responsibility (CSR) conditions that best influences grassroots football club stakeholders to meet a sponsor’s goals through promotional activity.
The research uses a case study of the Essex Alliance League, a local amateur football league in England. Firstly, semi-structured interviews were held with multiple stakeholders to understand the ecosystem of grassroots football. From here, further semi-structured interviews were held with club sponsors to identify the conditions of CSR. This allowed the research to then issue a survey from which results were analysed and discussed using fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA).
The ecosystem of grassroots football is formed by a myriad of stakeholders operating at a national level, all the way to more local governance structures within which the business-club relationship exists. Sponsors identified three main conditions of CSR: shared values, self-congruity, and happiness. However, following fsQCA, two pathways were found: 1) presence of shared values, and 2) presence of happiness with the absence of self-congruity.
Where fertile ground for academic analysis in grassroots football is present, this research investigates CSR activity at this level of football, where most research is more concerned with professional levels of the game. Furthermore, this research reaches into the sport ecosystem through an understanding of co-created values between organisations in this exchange of shared values to meet common objectives.
For practitioners, adaptations can be made for clubs to attract and maintain sponsorship as businesses seek to use grassroots sport as a channel for their own CSR objectives. To attract long term sponsorship, club managers are recommended to maintain long-term relationships with business owners especially in relation to personal values, fit, and happiness. As such, the responsibility of the club to ensure its stakeholders engage in promotional activity on behalf of their sponsor will help in maximising the financial value over multiple seasons.