Social Policy & Administration

Board composition in national sport federations: a cross-country comparative analysis of diversity and board size

The average board size in Indian national sport federations — 19.5 directors — is larger than in the sampled Western countries, shows the study.


Joshua McLeod, Deakin Business School, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

Shaun Star, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

David Shilbury, Deakin Business School, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.


The purpose of this study was to analyse the composition of national sport federation (NSF) boards in Australia, India, South Africa, the UK and the USA. Specifically, this research assessed board size, occupational diversity and gender diversity, which are theorised to influence board performance. 

This study employed a positivist descriptive research approach and gathered data from online secondary sources. In total, board composition data was collected on 253 NSFs across five countries, which equated to 2937 directors. 

The results showed that the average board size in Indian NSFs (19.5 directors) is larger than in the sampled Western countries (on average between 7.2 and 14.2 directors). 

The occupational background of directors in Australia and the UK is similar, with a strong degree of business involvement (61% and 67%, respectively). Compared to Australia and the UK, India, South Africa and the USA have a larger proportion of directors from sporting backgrounds. Indian NSFs have a relatively significant number of politicians (16%) and few (7%) women on their boards compared to the Western countries. 

Practical implications: This study provides empirical evidence to support sport governance policy processes. Research contribution: This research contributes to the sport governance literature by showing the extent to which NSFs are adopting good governance standards.

Published in: Managing Sport and Leisure

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