A study on the function of symbols in japanese community sport clubs- from a view point of organizational symbolism

Por: Katsuhiro Itoh e Yasuo Yamaguchi.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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In Japan, The Ministry of Education, Sciences, Sports and Culture (MEXT) has been promoting the establishment of a multi-sports club in each municipality (city, town, village) since 1995.  The characteristics of a multi-sports club can be identified as "a diversity of sports," "people of all generations," "all levels of skill," and "voluntary management by members".

Several studies on community sport clubs have been reported from a view point of organizational structure, system and club management (e.g., Kurosu, 1998,1999; Mizukami, 1999, 2000; Nagazumi et al, 1998; Matsunaga ,1999; Yamaguchi et al, 2000; Itoh and Yamaguchi ,2001; Itoh et al, 2002a, 2002b).  Most studies have been based on descriptive aspects of clubs and luck of theoretical frameworks and explanations.  Therefore, empirical study based on theoretical consideration is needed.  The purposes of this study are to discuss the applicability of organizational symbolism in the study of sport clubs, and to examine the function of symbols in a community sport club in Japan.


Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club (KR&AC) was selected as a case in this study, since it was founded in 1870 and one of the oldest sport clubs in Japan.  Interview to manager of KR&AC was conducted, while content analyses were applied to research papers, literatures and books on organizational culture and organizational symbolism.


About the categories of symbols, Sakashita (2002) proposed the following three categories; (1) linguistic symbols (e.g., stories, legends, myths, name and so on), (2) behavioral symbols (e.g., ceremony, behavior, performance and so on), (3) physical symbols (e.g., flag, logo mark, buildings, systems and so on).  Linguistic symbols in KR&AC are "A. C. Sim (a founder’s name, symbolic leader)," the story that "the first football match in Japan was held between the KR&AC and the YC&AC(Yokohama Country and Athletic Club)", "The Heart of Sports in Kansai (a slogan of KR&AC)".  Behavioral symbols in KR&AC are regarded as general meeting, parties, annual match between KR&AC and YC&AC (football, rugby, field hockey, badminton and so on).  Physical symbols in KR&AC are clubhouse, restaurant, bar, photographs, pennants, trophies, uniforms.  The results indicates that there are many symbols in KR&AC with historical and cultural backgrounds.

The functions of those symbols are summarized as follows; "strengthening members’ commitment to KR&AC", "increasing members’ identity", "maintaining the relationships between members" and "informing members of value of KR&AC".  That is to say, symbols function to maintain the club system and to stabilize the club structure.  The results indicate that organizational symbolism is applicable to the study of sport clubs, and show that there are various function of symbols in community sport clubs.







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