Introduction: Interest in topic, research gap, research aims and research
Football, as one of the most popular kinds of sport can be considered as a special type of art. Thus, as any type of art, it can be sold, especially when it is considered a high quality art. Football players, in some way, can be those exhibits, which represent such art. As we notice, this passionate sport becomes violated being commercialized. Such problem of football impurity also confronts and concern football fans a lot.
At the same time, looking at the intensive development of sports, globalization and general world progress, it is impossible, and, moreover, it is inevitable for football to avoid the process of commercialization as the capitalistic society of nowadays made it a lucrative market for different entrepreneurs. The football clubs need to have financial support in order to pay for their sportsmen and to gain fame. Such fame can be reached faster when they purchase stars, which would speed up further development of their clubs. At the same time, over-commercialization makes the football clubs blurry.
The topic of commercialization of football is very important not only in order to understand if it is good or bad, but to analyse the circumstances and tendencies why this process is happening, and to draw the implications on what can be done to improve the development of that sphere in perspective; as this is a serious literature gap nowadays. The main aim of this research was to define whether commercialization in football is good or bad and, thus, the main research question that appeared was: Are the social impacts of such commercialisation beneficial to detrimental?
Research Approach and its Justification
In this proposed study, the primary source of data collection is done through the use of semi-structured in-depth corporate qualitative interviews (Cassell et.al, 2009), which were carried out with football players, representatives of the local sports club, and football fans of my city. Such interviews enabled to raise a set of themes to discuss; they led to new and interesting points raised by the respondents during the course of more fluid conservation (Hughes, 1999). Semi-structured in-depth open-ended interviews provided the most enriching information about the context and the history of subject with wide-ranging dimensions (Berry, 2002).
The analysis of each interview was followed by the process of data reduction, data display and the drawing of conclusions outlined by Miles & Huberman (1994), which is shown in Figure 1. The phase of data reduction from the interview transcripts seeks to simplify and organise the data into more easily manageable components, it involved the use of the first-level and second-level coding approaches (Punch, 1998).
The phase of data display involved mapping of the second-level categories and third-level categories on a chart into a simplified, compact form. The phase of conclusion drawing and verification seeks to note themes emerging from the analysis of each interview transcript and to identify similarities and differences emerging from the comparison across cases. It also seeks to offer propositions about emerging themes.
A comparative approach to the phases of data reduction, data display and conclusion drawing was employed. Feedback from participants regarding emerging themes, tentative propositions and conclusions was sought at the end of the entire collection and data analysis process (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Punch, 1998).
An extensive examination of websites and literature was done to seek clarifications on key components of our research question. A cross-examination of the websites’ information was also made to check consistency of information disclosed. According to Berry (2002), the fact that one interviewee can be more convincing than the other does not mean that they are telling the truth; therefore the value of flexibility of semi-structured interviews can be exacerbated by validity and reliability issues.
The chosen sampling strategy and its justification
Since one of the chosen research methods is the conduction of topic-focused and semi-structured individual interviews, most of the respondents were chosen directly; some of them were also selected by the “snow-ball” method. Apart from limitations regarding the anonymity of the respondents (Healey & Rowlinson, 1993), during the scheduling of the meetings with the sports club representatives, they would not like to meet in the area of their occupation but would rather prefer neutral places. Football players agreed to meet somewhere further from their training space.
The priority was given to those participants, who would be aware of the situation of football commercialization and would be involved in football since their young childhood, they would either go to the games (if fans) or participate (it football players) in the games abroad. The management of the sports club had to be former football players who are pretty much aware of the commercialization in the world arena.
The target was to question 4-6 respondents, representatives of three ‘circles’ mentioned above: 1-2 of the interviewees were targeted to ask the sports club representatives, and 2-3 representatives each of football fans and players. As it was expected, the most willing to talk were fans; the least desire for the meetings came from the sports club respondents. The explanations for the reasons of such opt out were different: starting from sudden business trip abroad to open and honest unwillingness to talk about that.
Design of your data collection instrument
General design of my research strategy and the questions for the interview were developed based on the existing information on-line. The questions were organized from general to more complicated ones with a mix of simple and complex question (Appendix A). None of them required simple “yes” or “no” answers; and none of them were unethical.
The questions themselves were aimed for getting the most profound information starting from the background questions and thoughts of commercialization, and finishing with more personal and complicated. The questions did not imply to demonstrate my own attitude and I tried to be neutral and impartial during the whole interview process.
Although this interview was more structured compared to the informal conversational interview, there was still quite a bit of flexibility regarding its composition (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2003). The ways the chosen questions were worded depended upon the situation and the reaction of the interviewee (Appendix B). This type of interview can allow the researcher to put the questions interchangeably, and that helped a lot during the interview process itself. That helped to hear more independent answers from the respondents; a lot depended also on the way those questions were asked.
The implementation stage of my interview process was based on McNamara’s (2009) recommendations. The following tips were use to make the data collection successful: (a) occasional verification of the tape recorder work; (b) asking one question at a time; (c) remaining as neutral as possible; (d) encouraging responses with occasional nods of the head; (e) being careful about the note-taking not to seem surprised or pleased about provided answer that could affect further responses; (f) providing transitions between major topics; and (g) keeping control of the whole interview. Such clues helped a lot to organize both my thoughts and general attitudinal behaviour.
Ethical issues are and should be present in any kind of research as such process creates different tension between the research aims in order to make neutral generalization, which would be beneficial for both sides. Both the interviewer and respondents have the rights to maintain privacy. The main purpose of ethics is doing good for both parties and avoiding any possible harm, which can be prevented through the implementation of corresponding ethical principles. Therefore, the protection of participants in any type of research study is imperative, which doe not even require any further proof.
Before the interviewing process, I introduced myself and explained the topic and originality of my research. I have addressed the issues of informed consent, confidentiality, privacy and explained my own role and agenda as a researcher. I asked if the respondents would not mind me recording our conversation; thus, none of them would against that.
The interviewees did not ask me to present any letter from the University or from my professor, in particular. For designing my interview guide, I have used on-line materials on the topic, general guidelines of conducting the research, and the rules for making those questions.
There were not any ethical or political issues arose before and during the interviewing process itself. The respondents that agreed to meet initially were willing to share their knowledge and information they knew. After the official questionnaire finished (each interview lasted for 45 minutes), almost all of the interviewees were willing to share information, which they considered confidential. Most of such information was regarding the amounts of money the local business representatives would pay or have paid already for certain football players.
Reflecting on the data collection process
Generally speaking, my initial expectations were met in reality. I have asked the targeted number of the respondents and did not have major force majeure situations. At the very beginning, I understood that the commercialization of football has set in motion a new shift in sports paradigm especially those that involve teams. I was prepared for the answers that players and even clubs have become real trade commodities, and that they can be sold to the highest bidders.
The only agitation I had is about their possible reaction on some personal questions. As we know, all sport used to be about excellent performance and hard work, and it is very hard for some clubs to survive. Thus, money matters a lot to them although they realize that it might not always be so tolerant regarding the players and fans.
It is uneasy to talk about the players who no longer stay loyal to those clubs they were trained at the beginning. The players themselves became the robots targeted to direct their muscles into the gates of the wealthier investor.
I have learnt that the process of data collection is a very time requiring and rewarding procedure. It helped me to have a better understanding of the issues such as choosing the topic, formulating the research question and considering necessary approaches and methods to reach the research aim.
It is very challenging to find the scientific information on the topics that are rare especially when you are interested in the questions of a real literature gap. For that reason, the method of interviewing was chosen to find out more about the commercialization and how various stakeholders perceive it.
The nature of possible ethical problems in any qualitative research is different compared to the problems in quantitative research; the letter is less subtle. For example, I considered potential ethical conflicts when accessing to the respondents and the effect I could have on participants. In this case I mean potential ethical failure I could have before starting initial questionnaire. I found out, it is more complicated to start, because depending on the mood you start your interview with, the same mode and pace it will continue.
The most important thing, which I have discovered during this research, is that generally all qualitative researchers should report on all the incidents regarding ethical issues encountered. It should be done in order to ensure further analysis, discussion, and prevention of possible future mistakes.