Document Type



January 2011


Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Sports Management


The existing framework for international sport is based on the guiding principles of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. The Peace of Westphalia promoted sovereignty, self-determination, equality between states, and non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state, and it has served as the basis for international relations for several centuries. Vernon observed that “the advanced world, carried ebulliently on the crest of a technological revolution in transportation and communication, has absentmindedly set up a virile system of international institutions and relationships that sit alongside the system of nation-states.” Vernon’s observation captures the essence of the existing international sport structure, where the nation state is the defining characteristic and criterion for membership in international sport organizations (for example, International Olympic Committee) and participation in international sporting events (for example, FIFA World Cup team inclusion, Olympic athlete inclusion). Miller et al. argued that many have mistakenly predicted the demise of the nation-state and Westphalian sovereignty and the rise of international sovereignty over the past century, but admit that the nation-state has lost its potency and relevance and increasingly struggles to control the impact of cross-border flows stimulated by transnational forces.2 Challenges to Westphalian sovereignty in sport have increased with the growing power and influence of the Multinational Sport Enterprise (MNSE) and the forces of globalization. MNSEs are “international or cross-border entities which are of the existing interstate system firmly rooted in national territorial jurisdiction.”3 Appadurai defined globalization as a series of diverse, fluid, and unpredictable flows that include the movement of capital, technology, people, and mediated images.4 Professional sport clubs such as the Los Angeles Lakers (basketball) and FC Barcelona (football) as well as the leagues of which they are members, the National Basketball Association and the Spanish La Liga respectively, are all in fact MNSEs. These organizations exemplify the forces of globalization influencing sport; when FC Barcelona won the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) championship in 2009 playing a “European style” of football, only eleven of its twenty four players were Spanish. Its victory over English Premier League club, Manchester United, which was owned by an American, was viewed by 206 million people worldwide. Coupled with the attempts by athletes and countries to circumvent and/or benefit from eligibility requirements for Westphalian-based international sport competitions and the willingness of those events to offer MNSEs and athletes a global marketing platform, the Barcelona-Manchester United match was an illustration of the rise of the MNSE and globalized sports and a portent for the decline in the power and influence of the Westphalian-based sport structure

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