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The Anatomy of the Sports Scandal: Outset, Development and Effect

Senior Academic Researcher & PhD Scholar Rasmus K. Storm Danish Institute for Sports Studies Kanonbådsvej 12a DK-1437 København K, Denmark E-mail:

Assistant Professor, PhD Ulrik Wagner Department of Leadership and Corporate Strategy University of Southern Denmark Sdr. Stationsvej 28 DK-4200 Slagelse, Denmark E-mail:

Paper presented at Play the Game 2011, Cologne, Germany, 3-6 October 2011 Please don’t quote or circulate, comments are welcome! Abstract Sports scandals are often discussed in the media and the research literature without any deeper reflections on their specificities or development. As the economic and political significance of sport seems to grow in correspondence to the development of globalization, the call for a sociological understanding of the downsides of sport becomes imperative. By deploying a communication-theoretical framework (Luhmann) combined with insights from discourse theory (Laclau, Laclau & Mouffe) and the understanding of ideal types (provided by Weber), this article aims to develop a theoretical model of the sports scandal, its outset, development and effects.

Our work presents a five-step model encompassing: initial steps of transgression (1), followed by a publicly observed dislocation destabilizing the social order (2), which subsequently results in moral communication (3), environmental pressure for appropriate action (4), and, finally, an institutional solution (5).The scope of the model is tested in the analysis of two cases. Finally three working hypotheses are outlined for future research.

Key words: Scandals, Systems Theory, Discourse Theory, Communication, Expectations, Dislocation 1

The development of professional sport in modern society and the growing focus on international elite sporting events such as the Olympics have enhanced the frequencies and scope of sports scandals and highlighted their various moral aspects. From the Ben Johnson affair in 1988 and the doping scandals following the 1998 Tour de France, to the accusations of corruption in big international sports organizations such as FIFA, to the present enormous financial difficulties in European professional football, and to the recent Tiger Woods affair – all these incidents have triggered public debates over moral concerns and even, in some cases, political intervention. As the economic and political significance of sport seems to be growing in relation to the development of globalization, the call for a sociological understanding of the downsides of sport has become imperative. So far, scholars have pointed to „sports scandals‟, but have not provided a thorough theoretical understanding of this phenomenon. Taking this circumstance as its point of departure, the article aims to outline a theoretical framework that examines sports scandals as a social phenomenon. Existing literature on (sports) scandals – a brief review1 Sports scandals are not a contemporary phenomenon (Crowtherm, 2002; Maening, 2005). However, in the age of mass media these scandals are broadcasted to a larger audience than ever before. Scholars of social sport science have explicitly dealt with sports scandals in relation to doping (Blackwell, 1991; Carstairs, 2003; Hanstad, 2008; Laine, 2006), bribery and corruption (Bachin, 2003; Lee, 2008; Saloufakos-Parsons, 2001; Wenn & Martyn, 2006), referee decisions (Amegashie, 2006; Stepanova, Strube, & Hetts, 2009) and sexual harassment (Toffoletti, 2007).2 On the one hand, these academic contributions have significantly emphasized the mass media‟s role in sports scandals, but, on the other, they have conspicuously neglected to offer theoretical definitions of the sports scandal. There are a number of exceptions, though: Hughes and Shank (2005) provide empirical insights from an American sports marketing context, showing how scandals are perceived by and have an impact on the mass media and corporate sponsors. Furthermore, Rowe (1997) makes a fruitful contribution with insights into how sports scandals represent the breakdown of certain ethical expectations that spectators have of sporting celebrities and/or the Olympic ethos. Our aim here is not to evaluate the results of these studies or downplay their importance. Rather, we want to strengthen the theoretical understanding of the sports scandal by taking the important role of the mass media into account without reducing scandals to a mere mass media phenomenon. This allows 2

us to move beyond a common-sense perception of sports scandals often adopted uncritically in contemporary studies. To guide this work, other scientific fields such as political science and business studies will be included, as these areas have a long tradition of dealing with scandals, referred to as `scandology´ (Neckel, 2005, p. 101). Our basic assumption is that, although there are significant differences between sport, business and politics, scandals emerging in these three spheres of society share some underlying similarities. Therefore, our general theoretical framework will draw on literature explicitly dealing with political and business scandals in order to develop an appropriate model of the sports scandal. Approaching the sports scandal: the (contingent) choice of theory The choice and combination of theories to undertake such a task is fundamentally contingent. As pointed out by Stäheli (1995, p. 3), only the success of our steps is able to legitimize our decisions. Taking existing literature a step further, the argumentation of the article rests on the suggestion that a combination of systems theory and discourse theory establishes an analytical frame capable of reaching the necessary level of abstraction together with being operational for analytic purposes. Several scholars have developed Luhmann‟s (1982; 1986; 1990b; 1990a; 1995a; 1995b; 1997b; 1997a; 2000b; 2002) systems theory in order to understand the development of sport in modern society (see Bette, 1999; Tangen, 1997; 2000; 2004; Cachay, 1988; Thyssen, 2000; Stichweh, 1990; Schimank, 1988). These perspectives point to important ways of understanding meaning and sports communication and, therefore, to the theory‟s potential for sports scandal analysis. This being said, certain theoretical aspects within the systems theoretical framework need to be developed in order to grasp the phenomenon in question. Three important aspects come to mind in connection with what is often regarded as the underdeveloped notion of subjectivity in Luhmann‟s perspective (or his perception of causality; see Joas (1995, p. 211ff) for an in-depth critique): Firstly, it is hard to find any other social activity in which the individual (and the body) is focused upon to such a significant extent as in sport. Performances and actions in this area of society are regarded almost entirely as being the direct result of the will of the individual in question (Tangen, 2000, p. 74ff; Tangen, 1997, p. 34; Rowe, 1994). Secondly, and related to the first point, scandals often develop around (a) key person(s) (seen as the transgressor/transgressors of specific expectations, norms or values) and certain „non-participants‟ (Thompson, 2000, p. 19) alarmed by the transgression (Adut, 2008, pp. 11-12). Thirdly, the sports scandal contains political elements, as moral communication emerges when a scandal appears. Demand for political intervention or pressure for preventing the scandal from occurring again have, in many cases, made sports scandals an object of public debate and scrutiny. Viewed through the 3

lenses of Laclau and Laclau and Mouffe (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985; Laclau, 1996b; 1990; 1996a; 1989; 1995), especially focusing on their hypothesis of the primacy of politics, such kinds of communication can be seen as political. As politics implies agency through the articulation of new discourses, and the scandal typically draws attention to individuals, a model of the sports scandal must thus conceptualize agency and the element of politics to a greater extent than found in its primary theoretical frame – the work of Luhmann, that is. On the other hand, the systems theory developed by Luhmann on meaning, expectations and communication seems extremely appropriate in order to approach the structural characteristics of the sports scandal.

Notes from the ‘scandology’ literature
What is a scandal? According to Thompson, “(…) ‟scandal‟ refers to actions or events involving certain kinds of transgressions which become known to others and are sufficiently serious to elicit a public response” (Thompson, 2000, p. 13). Adut (2008, p. 11; Adut, 2005, p. 217f) gives a similar broad definition, stressing, though, that it does not matter whether the transgression is real or just an accusation. As long as someone is willing to report an (alleged) transgression and there is public interest in the subject, a scandal can evolve (Thompson, 2000, p. 27). The publicity aroused by the transgression and, especially, by the media plays a significant role in this process. The modern media scandal owes its basic characteristics to the emergence of new media technologies represented by the development of the telegraph, the telephone, television, radio and the internet in the 19th and 20th centuries (Thompson, 2000, p. 34). The main effect of this development is the way in which media amplify transgressions and spread them globally (Urry, 2003, p. 114).3 According to Thompson (2000, p. 7), structural developments in social and political life have resulted in scandals becoming more frequent. As the differences between the various political parties have become smaller in Western democracies and society has become more individualized, the reputation and credibility of politicians is of growing importance in the fight for voter support. In this scenario the scandal serves as a credibility test for politicians, often provoked by the mass media or even opposition parties (Thompson, 2000). To follow Thompson (2000, p. 73) on this track, a scandal can generally be broken down into four phases: 1) the pre-scandal phase; 2) the phase of scandal proper; 3) the phase of culmination; and 4) the aftermath. The pre-scandal phase represents the event of transgression. Note that as long as the transgression is not publicized, the transgression will not evolve into a scandal. The scandal only emerges when somebody reports the event in public as a transgression of some sort, for example a moral offence or the misuse of (political) power (Thompson, 2000, pp. 19-20; Adut, 2008, p. 23). The second phase, the scandal proper, follows when claims and counterclaims start to emerge and the public begins 4

to take note. Here, some sort of moral communication develops, which Thompson ((Thompson, 2000, p. 21) calls “public articulation of opprobrious discourse”. The scandal proper continues until the third phase is instigated: the culmination. This phase constitutes a stage where the scandal is brought to a head (Thompson, 2000, p. 73). Pressure on the persons involved peaks and new disclosures may appear. This phase often involves an admission of guilt, especially if initial accusations are met with a denial that turns out to be false (a second-order transgression). Finally, the aftermath – the fourth phase of the scandal – is characterized by a lowering of public interest and more subtle reflections on its consequences, and often the installment of certain institutional solutions, for example, the passing of a new law in order to prevent that type of scandal from happening again. Applying existing research to sports scandals How can these general reflections on scandal be adapted in order to understand the sports scandal? What are the main differences between political scandals and sports scandals? Fundamentally, it is our opinion that despite the differences between sport and politics the main characteristics of the political scandal closely resemble those found in a given sports scandal. In the consumer culture of Western countries – where sport is a highly integrated element (see Horne, 2006; Roberts, 2004; Westerbeek & Smith, 2003) – athletes are celebrities equivalent to political figures in the field of politics: visible and frequently idolized (Nixon II, 2008, p. 154; Smart, 2005; Andrews & Jackson, 2001). In this environment, the athletes are constructed as heroes and figure in everyday discourse as symbols of positive character, with such attributes as high spirits, fairness, moral rectitude and achievement (Nixon, 1984, pp. 172-175; Nixon II, 2008, p. 151; Edwards, 1973, p. 333ff; Rowe, 1994; Rowe, 1997). This goes for sports organizations as well, for example FIFA or the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which are visible authorities striving – on a permanent basis – to represent the positive values or common principles associated with sport.4 However, the above reflections on scandal are mainly descriptive. In order to develop a more theoretically grounded model, it is necessary to draw on pertinent sociological findings.

Theoretical framework: Social communication systems as generators of meaning and expectation processes
It is beyond the scope of this article to present Luhmann‟s comprehensive theory here, and we can only highlight some relevant issues focusing on his concepts of communication, meaning and expectations (other introductions can be found in: Baraldi et. al (1999), Seidl (2005) and, with an emphasis on sport, in Storm & Wagner (2010). 5

Luhmann distinguishes between living, psychic and social systems. Social systems consist of nothing but communication that leads to additional communication (Luhmann, 1995a). Three kinds of social systems are found in his theory: Simplified interaction systems which depend on the physical presence of psychic systems; organizational systems which organize communication according to distinctions between decision/non-decision and member/non-member; and, finally, societies, which can be defined as auto-logical spheres of modern society, for instance economy, politics, law, art, religion – and, some will argue, sport. Social systems are constituted by a distinction between system and environment. Within the system sense-making communication emerges as an internal and selective process, and in this way meaning serves as a basic sociological concept (Luhmann, 1990a). Meaning is conceived as a distinction between actuality and potentiality, i.e., particular and momentary communication will always refer to other unselected communication possibilities. Communication must thus be conceived as a meaninggenerating process in operationally closed social systems, which Luhmann (Luhmann, 1995a; Luhmann, 2006) terms `autopoiesis´– or self-creation, a theoretical term adopted from the biologists Maturana and Varela (see Maturana & Varela, 1980; Varela, Maturana, & Uribe, 1974; Varela et al., 1974; Varela, 1997). This concept of autopoiesis allows us to understand how certain spheres of society construct their own particular logics by creating their own elements of communication. What provides meaning for sport, for instance, running a marathon while your knee joint is hurting, does not necessarily make sense for political communication. Likewise, sporting merit does not matter to the communication of the educational system should a successful athlete study to obtain a medical degree. Here, only medical qualifications matter. On the other hand, a social phenomenon like bribery may enter political communication and be subjugated to a political logic of power superior/power inferior should the political system choose to integrate the instance as a part of its particular communication. Expectations The process of sense-making communication in social systems creates certain patterns of expectation that are to be seen as structural elements of communication. For example, economic communication creates the expectation that any given topic will be understood in terms of payment or non-payment. Attached to this theoretical understanding of modern society as differentiated into multiple societies is the notion that we can perceive sport as a particular system, with its own inherent logic, based on a distinction between victory/defeat (Bette, 1999; Tangen, 2004; Schimank, 1988). The victory becomes – adopting a term from Talcot Parsons – the symbolically generalized medium that makes sport possible. This distinction, in its pure form, constructs structures that provide certain expectations significant for 6

sport. By using the body as a medium, sport communication enables us to distinguish between the winner and the losers in a competitive event. Sport, however, is programmed and refined by additional secondary codes, such as progression/regression, clean/doped, healthy/unhealthy or peaceful/violent, thereby creating a complex system with inherently embedded expectations. Although described as operationally closed, social systems are able to establish certain channels of irritation, a phenomenon described by Luhmann as structural couplings (Luhmann, 1992). As sport has proven itself to be highly applicable for other spheres of society, we can even speak of strategic dependency (Schimank, 1995). In this way modern sport provides something that related systems cannot solely produce themselves. Via structural couplings other societies like law, politics, the mass media or the economy allow themselves to be stimulated by (elite) sport in a way that over time creates certain inter-systemic expectations, for example, when sports stars become endorsement opportunities for corporate sponsors, or winning athletes become parameters of political regime superiority. Tangen (1997; 2004; 2010) has suggested that sport has a mirror function in society whereby communication on improvements can be measured and tested relatively easily without involving larger risks. Thus, sport is used for evaluating economic progress or comparing political regimes in a way that does not result in direct battles between rival firms or nations (war). This explains why sport – which on the surface is a seemingly harmless activity – plays a very important function in society via its interrelatedness to other societal systems. Modern sport establishes a sphere of logics that creates certain expectations, but – and most importantly – these expectations are not pre-given. This is observed by systems in the environment of sport. Sport is contingent, which means neither necessary nor impossible, and is therefore constantly socially (re-)constructed. Sport emerges in constant relation to, but differing from, its environment. In this way, we are only able to understand sport if we observe it in relation to its environment. The tension between system and environment is the point of departure for understanding the sport scandal as tensions can grow and result in the breakdown of established expectations. The problem of the initiation of change One problem comes to mind here, though: How do these tensions take form in real life? And who is responsible for their specific emergence? While Luhmann rejects the assumption that social systems are made up of the sum of individuals (psychic systems), his term „interpenetration‟ on the one hand signifies interrelations between social and psychic systems (Luhmann, 1995a). Psychic systems provide memory and utterances, which are a necessary component of communication, while social systems generate expectations. In this way, psychic systems are able to interrupt communication and create 7

disturbances questioning the relation between system and environment (in other words, initiating tensions), but are – on the other hand – placed in the environment of social systems (Luhmann, 1995b, p. 48; Luhmann, 1990a, p. 85), merely functioning as memory (Luhmann, 1990a, p. 67). This particular exclusion of what is normally conceived as a subject category in sociology raises the question of how systems theory understands change, i.e., when and under what circumstances systems take disturbance into account. What is it in particular that changes one system formation to another? And how is this to be conceptualized theoretically? Here we would like to propose the discourse theoretical term „dislocation‟ (Laclau, 1990, p. 41ff; 1996a, p. 54) in order to grasp the phenomenon of change in meaning-constituted formations in general. The term also helps us to understand the sports scandal in particular, as it points at the same time to a subject category downplayed by Luhmann as well as taking the structural aspects so clearly emphasized in his work into appropriate consideration. We will reflect on this in more depth after a brief introduction to the aspects of systems theory that needs to be modified in this respect. De-paradoxification The basic function of a system is to reduce complexity in order to make communication successful (Luhmann, 1990a, p. 86ff). This happens, as mentioned above, through the formation of a distinction that makes processes of selection between elements of communication possible. The problem is, however, that the code on which the distinction is based is itself constituted in a paradox. In the words of Laclau and Mouffe (1985), the constitutive negation of a discourse (here broadly interpreted – for the sake of presentation – as a kind of system) prevents it from obtaining a full identity. A discourse has no essence as it is defined by its constitutive (negative) outside threatening its own existence (Laclau, 1995, p. 151; Laclau, 1990, p. 17; Howarth, 2000, p. 103). The same applies for the system. It is constituted as the institutionalization of two sides related to each other through binary coding. Just as a discourse cannot hegemonize the social order in total – due to the excluded outside – the system represents a paradox in its very constitution.5 Stäheli (1995) points out that a system constituted through, for example, the code legal/illegal, faces this when it is confronted with the question of whether the distinction in itself is legitimate (see also: Andersen, 1999, p. 114ff; Andersen, 2003, p. 248ff). The problem is that a new distinction must be drawn in order to answer this question, creating another paradox, a blind spot, at a higher level (Luhmann, 2002, pp. 115, 136). This problem is not a problem, though, but the mere prerequisite for observation as such (Luhmann, 1995b, p. 40; Spencer-Brown, 2008, p. 183). Paradoxes, however, imply decisions in order to let communication and meaning emerge. The systemic answer is to temporarily „forget‟ or ignore the contingent aspects of paradox, letting the 8

program steer the autopoietic process of meaning creation ascribed to the system‟s code. According to Luhmann, the program helps the system to apply the code, which in turn creates expectations, which are seen as systemic structures, thus stabilizing the social order (Luhmann, 1995a, p. 267). Decision Here we emerge at the critical point. When systems are formed, or discourses are institutionalized, the structures often process communication and expectations that are hard to destroy. This is reflected by Luhmann when he states that structural settings often tell you more about a person than you can know from knowing him/her personally (Luhmann, 1995: 166). Luhmann does not neglect the possibility of some kind of agency; however, he firmly excludes the subject from the core of his theory (see: Bjerg, 2006, p. 192; Brier, 2006, p. 219; Brier, 2008, pp. 330,402). Luhmann even speaks of a „subject free‟ concept of action (Luhmann, 1995a, p. 118), and even though communication is dependent on psychic systems (together with bodies as visible identification points in space (Luhmann, 1995a, pp. 59, 246)), persons cannot direct or steer communication in any causal way (Kneer & Nassehi, 1997, p. 94). The problem is, then, what initiates change? Luhmann (1990a, p. 66) points to systemic evolution with the system/environment distinction as a „motor‟, as changes in individual systems make the environment of other systems more complex, resulting in systemic adaptation. But this seems to be a purely structural explanation. Brier (2006: 219, 2008: 330ff) argues that the closed form of the system in the systems theoretical framework, together with Luhmann‟s failure to provide a sufficient theory of subjectivity, makes it extremely difficult to use his theoretical reflections fruitfully. Change seems to come out of nothing without really addressing the question of what or who makes the difference – or in the words of Laclau and Mouffe: „the decisions‟. Bjerg (2006: 200) argues that the anticipation of contingency that forces selections must encompass a will, or some kind of power, to decide not to select – a fact which is more or less overlooked by Luhmann. As the essence of systems theory is to focus on how basic (and improbable) incidents, in the form of communication processes, connect to each other, it excludes the question of where the force behind selection and communication comes from. Why do we have selections in the first place? This is a way of pointing to the missing subject category – a blind spot – in Luhmann‟s theoretical reflections, and this problem brings us to insights provided by discourse theory. The concept of subjectivity and agency in discourse theory As Laclau and Laclau and Mouffe put great importance on subjectivity and agency (Howarth, 2000, p. 108; Torfing, 1998, p. 137ff), they seem in total opposition to the theoretical reflections put forward by 9

Luhmann. However, a closer examination reveals some important similarities. What is of greatest importance here is the introduction of the subject, which is placed in the theory as a metaphor for the absence of essence. The subject is relevant and necessary because the basic undetermined condition of the social order demands decisions by a subject (Laclau, 1990, p. 223), or translated to systems theory: a psychic system determining whether to connect, where to connect, or not to connect at all. The process of agency in discourse theory, however, presupposes dislocation (Stäheli, 1995, p. 6; Laclau, 1996b, p. 54; Laclau, 1990, p. 39ff). According to Howarth (2000), Torfing (1999) and Hansen (2005), dislocation reveals the contingencies of the social and creates conditions of possibilities for subject-orientated agency, which “emerge in the 'spaces' opened up by the fracturing of structures, and whose decisions reconstitute dislocated orders" (Howarth, 2000, p. 111). Fundamentally, the argument is that any social structure always contains a more or less explicit element of dislocation. As every imaginable setting is constituted by impossibility (or paradox), it is only as long as society has „forgotten‟ its contingency and negative constitution that the discourse can continue to live its essentially insecure life. External events, however, constantly threaten to blow the stability apart. This is also the case in systems theory. According to Stäheli (1997, p. 31), the system itself produces internal paradoxes, which expose it to external disturbances, because the very possibility of disturbance depends on the impossibility of a full self-referential closure. Expressing this in other terms, Stäheli argues: “In discourse theory dislocations overflow a discursive formation with discursivity. This can be re-phrased in systems theory as a moment of “undetermined complexity”, where anything becomes possible. Contradictions point out the precarious existence and finitude of systems or, as Luhmann puts it, the improbability of systems: “the contradiction, therefore, signals, and this is its function, that the contact could break off”, i.e., that autopoiesis could cease”. (Stäheli, 1995, p. 24f) Understood in these terms, all systems are open to disturbance, which can be seen as a kind of dislocative event – for example, a scandalous transgression – forcing the system to reflect on its own paradoxes in order to find a new way of securing future communicative connections. The consequence is a demand for agency when systems are faced with their own paradoxes due to environmental disturbance. The system has to choose whether to notice the disturbance or not and decide, if the disturbance is recognized, how it is to be interpreted and what kinds of new elements are required in the system to put the disturbance (temporarily) to rest. Thus, the development of systems – for example, in the form of increasing complexity – can only come about with the interference of the psychic system(s) itself inscribed in the social setting. Perceiving sports scandals as an event of


(structural) dislocation demanding decisions based on agency is a crucial element in the model outlined below.

Investigating conditions of possibility: understanding the sports scandal
Having put forward a sociological frame, which takes Luhmann‟s systems theory as a point of departure and modifies it by introducing elements of discourse theory, we now continue by building a descriptive model of the sports scandal. This model serves two interconnected purposes: first and foremost, – based on the above reflections – it lays out a theoretical understanding of the anatomy of the sports scandal; secondly, it arrives at an analytical model which can be used empirically to investigate specific sports scandals. Towards a model of the sports scandal Expressed diagrammatically, our model of the anatomy of the sports scandal is shown in the figure below. It consists of five distinct but overlapping phases, each of which we will go into more deeply.


Figure 1: A model of the sports scandal Transgression, public disclosure and structural dislocation As shown in the figure, we propose – following Thompson – that the first step in a sports scandal be termed the „pre-scandal phase‟. By pointing to a pre-scandal phase, we want to stress that it is not until the event is observed by an observer (for example, an organization or a psychic system) in its environment and communicated to the public that the scandal starts to evolve, i.e., that a „real‟ dislocation occurs (Adut, 2008; Adut, 2005; Thompson, 2000). The second step in the model commences when organizations, subjects, etc., are suddenly exposed to a transgression by events or incidents creating questions or problems that disturb the existing discursive horizon of meaning. We believe that the mass media play a crucial role. According to Luhmann (2000c), the function of the mass media as a differentiated social system is to serve as the collective memory system of society by distinguishing between what is information and what is not. This explains why almost all contributions dealing with scandals are also concerned with the mass media. In fact, a scandal becomes unimaginable without the mass media‟s intervention (Tumber & Waisbord, 2004a; Tumber & Waisbord, 2004b), 12

although we will argue – contrary to Tumber and Waisboard – that scandals must not be treated primarily as news events. Rather, the mass media, including encompassing propagation media, facilitate the public disclosure and thus serve as catalysts of structural dislocation. The events related to doping in skiing may serve as an example. Despite the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) being set up in 1999, and thereby increasing public awareness that doping in elite sport is illegal, Finnish skiers in 2001 tested positive. The scandal, as described by Laine (2006) and Carstairs (2003), evolved dramatically as a result of mass media coverage. What was revealed was a paradox of meaning. The transgressional act of doping, thought to be eliminated from elite sport, suddenly arose as an unexpected reality, thus blurring the existing semantic boundaries of sport. It is an example in which a psychic system (i.e., the drugusing athlete) did not follow expectations laid down by the sports system itself, and also differed from expectations of what other structurally coupled systems ascribe to sport. This dislocation suddenly made (new) subjectivity visible, for instance, by labeling the doped athlete as a „sinner‟ – the pivotal feature of a sports scandal. Crisis communication develops The third feature of the sports scandal is the emergence of moral communication, or crisis communication, as an almost inevitable effect of the dislocation. As the „undecidability‟ and paradoxes of the social are suddenly present, the new chaos demands solutions in order to create a new order with more stable systemic patterns of expectations. In this phase, also named the „phase of the scandal proper‟ (Thompson, 2000), claims and counterclaims of the specific scandal topic start to emerge. Subject positions in the debate are formed, giving particular views weight over others, together with moral obligations and other conflicting themes used in the communication to gain hegemony and offer solutions, sanctions, and so on. Luhmann argues: “Morality is a symbolic generalization that reduces the full reflexive complexity of doubly contingent ego/alter relations to expressions of esteem and by this generalization opens up (1) room for free play of conditionings and (2) the possibility of reconstructing complexity through the binary schematism esteem/disdain”. (Luhmann, 1995a, p. 236) It is our suggestion that this “schematism” – forming a kind of scandal system (see: Tække, 2008) – is often used to condense the discursive „battles‟ between opponents in a given scandal. A scandal is perceived as an event which temporarily sabotages the programming of sport and, in a few cases, threatens the sports system‟s win/lose code, because it challenges existing binary schematics, for instance, when bribery suddenly makes a loser a winner or doping falsely makes a drug-using athlete a 13

sporting hero. In other words, moral communication is an immediate answer to a crisis situation and points to the pathological and conflictual aspects of sport (see also Jacobsson & Löfmark, (2008), for a similar perception using a different example). But since society is not constituted by a kind of metamoral or moral consensus, the moral distinction is considered temporary crisis communication (Luhmann, 1997b, p. 1043).

Examples of moral communication that distinguish between esteem/disdain are found when an athlete involved in a scandal, like figure skater Tonya Harding, deviates from expectations of decent behavior (Foote, 2003), when politicians react to an unexpected doping scandal, such as the Festina case during the 1998 Tour de France (see Ferstle, 2001), or when various newspapers react in a moralistic way to violent incidents in sport (Lippe & Maclean, 2008). In this phase additional discourses emerge, thus proliferating subjectivities, allowing external disturbances and leading to a situation of what – in accordance with the theoretical frame – can be termed a `total contingency´ overflowing with „discursivity‟, or „undetermined complexity‟.

In this sense, the third phase radically changes the existing semantic boundary of sport, and because of the sudden multiple discursivity it is a potentially productive meaning-providing step in the process towards a new social equilibrium. Following Laclau and Mouffe, this phase gives politics primacy as the dislocated incidents pave the way for re-articulations of the social. Culmination: Environmental pressure mounts As the crisis communication develops to a certain point, it leads to the next phase in the model, in which environmental pressure (the culmination) increases on the defined main actors (addressees) of the given scandal. It signifies a situation in which additional communication media are brought into play, whereby complexity is increased in order to handle the chaotic situation. We argue that because sport is structurally coupled to other systems, and thus a strategic dependency exists, much is at stake, and efforts will be made to regain order. In other words, action is demanded by the environment. Main actors emerge as conflict-solving subjects when politicians are called upon to solve the doping problems in sport (Hanstad, Smith, & Waddington, 2008), when more police are needed to subdue hooligan violence, or when educationalists are engaged in order to condition future socialization and avoid deviant athlete behavior (MacLaren, 2008). According to Luhmann (2000a), the unique function of the political system, in contrast to other systems, is to seek common and collectively binding solutions for society in general. This means that 14

power becomes the applied medium for dealing with the culmination of the sport scandal, which in turn explains why political intervention often becomes a dominant solution to crisis. However, as outlined by Luhmann, political steering has its limitations. When we are dealing with autopoietic systems, steering is a matter of self-steering or a way of reducing differences (Luhmann, 1997b, pp. 42-43). The system of politics cannot be reduced to the system of sport; it can only create the conditions in which sport is more likely to return to a state of order. In this situation, structural couplings between various social systems enable them to benefit from mutual stimulation through the intervention of psychic systems, e.g., various sports organizations are able to apply the political code power superior/inferior, thus enabling political pressure to be integrated as an additional second-codification of sports communication. In this process, subjects like sports politicians (e.g., an IOC president) emerge as decision makers capable of „deparadoxifying‟ the situation when the environment demands solutions to an act of transgression. This ensures the continuous autopoiesis of sport, which, during the phases of structural dislocation and crisis communication, suffered from threats of instability and loss of autopoiesis. The effect of the actual decision is dealt with in the following phase, termed the „aftermath‟. The aftermath: institutional solution or rejection Depending on the relative power relations between the defined responsible addressees of the scandal and the environment, the responsible organizations, subjects, etc., execute the demanded solution or reject it. In the first case, the implementation of a given solution can take many forms. 6 Governments act to avoid doping (Wagner, 2009) or corruption (Lee, 2008), mass media interests slowly diminish as initial transgressions become an expected and autopoietic part of auto-logical mass mediated sport communication (Rowe, 1994), organizations change their policy (Hanstad, 2008), or corporate sponsors choose not to engage in certain sports or initiate screening measures of athletes before engaging in sponsorships (Hughes & Shank, 2005). In case of rejection the whole process can start all over again. The arrows named „processual loop‟ in the figure illustrate this, as the process of the scandal in its different steps can be repeated over and over again at different levels until the scandal is brought to rest simply by time, because public interest has waned, or because agreements over central questions have finally been reached. The processual loops can also involve second-order transgressions, i.e., denials of accusations (Thompson, 2000), and result in further intensive investigations by the environment trying to reveal new evidence of transgressions. Total denials of scandals are few; however, one is able to trace them. Recent accusations and corruption scandals related to FIFA (see, for instance, Jennings, (2006) and Tomlinson, (2000) have not – contrary to what happened in the wake of the 1998 IOC bribery scandal, which 15

resulted in the IOC 2000 reform program – led to any serious changes within the organizational structures of FIFA, so far at least. This being said, suspicion still sticks to the organization, with the possibility of new future transgressions being revealed because media interest has not lessened. Thus – and this is our assertion – categorical rejections increase the possibility of reiterated scandals should the evidence on which they are based appear unconvincing to observers in the environment.

Having outlined a model of the sports scandal, a central problem appears with regard its two final phases: Why do some scandals grow big with major effects and similar institutional solutions, while other scandals die out or disappear before they even get started? The question is how we, in theoretical terms, can understand different types of scandals in relation to their effects? Ideal types and variations of scandals Luhmann‟s systems theory does not contain much methodological advice in this case. However, if we, in accordance with the above model, anticipate that a sports scandal takes on a certain processual form, it is possible to see that the scandal‟s characteristics also vary with regard to effects. Weber‟s idea of “ideal types” (2003) can be applied to this approach. In short, ideal types, or “pure types”, are abstract categories that make sense of complex social phenomenons.

The idea of bringing Weber to the fore here is, despite the individual form of each scandal, to draw up an analytical method from a number of variables making it possible to compare different sports scandals‟ effects. Having outlined the general features of expectations above, the following must be seen as a methodological outline for understanding the similarities among different kinds of scandals. Three sports scandal “ideal types” can be constructed. All three types seek to identify how an idealtypical sports scandal dislocates existing expectation structures:

1. A scandal based on dislocation of tradition is characterized by dislocated expectation structures tied to traditions. A scandal centered on this pole is especially designed for dislocation of expectational structures which have strong historical roots, which have not necessarily undergone radical changes, and which are characterized by repeatable structures that are similar to traditional hierarchical family patterns.


2. A scandal based on the dislocation of charismatic elements is a scandal in which expectations linked to charismatic individuals (or teams) are broken. It is an ideal type created from the assumption that sport, in particular, communicates images of the sublime individual. Because of specific abilities attributed to the athlete, e.g., talent or dedication, certain expectation structures of charisma are created which stick to the individual.

3. The third type refers to bureaucratic scandals, in which formal rules and hierarchies either prove to be inadequate, out of step with social practice or subjected to a double-standard (or moral) – i.e., when the creators of formal rules or laws do not live up to them themselves. Modern sport is a well organized practice. Over the last century, sport's national and international organizations have been built around formal rules and clearly defined hierarchical structures, and a violation of expectations connected to these organizational structures is our rationale for using this third ideal type.

These three ideal types can be conceived through a multidimensional 'vector approach' (see Figure 2) representing the three dislocated forms of expectations. As no scandal in practice exists in pure form, the concrete form of the combined vectors, which individually vary, draws up the form of the scandal. As can be seen from the figure below, some scandals have an inclination towards the bureaucratic dimension, but with a smaller element of dislocation towards tradition, and the charismatic dimension may not be prominent. Other scandals will similarly vary over the individual vectors (or variables).

It is also our assumption that this way of observing sports scandals may shed light on how a scandal affects key social systems in its environment (equivalent to stage 4 in our model), thus explaining its effect (corresponding to stage 5). The vector model can be visualized as follows:


Charismatic dislocation

Law Politics

Dislocation of tradition Effect


Bureaucratic dislocation

Mass media

Figure 2: The Vector approach: The question of effect As can be seen, the question of effects is a question of to what degree a scandal affects communication in Luhmann‟s four main social systems: law, politics, economics and mass media.

Two case examples: the Tiger Woods affair and the Festina Scandal
To illustrate this point, two brief examples of this model‟s application are to be given here: the golf scandal centered on Tiger Woods in 2009 and the Festina scandal from the Tour de France in 1998.

1) In November 2009, Tiger Woods was implicated in a series of extra-marital activities that quickly developed into a scandal in line with the procedural steps outline above. First, existing expectations relating to the „sublime‟ athlete were broken (step 1) when Tiger Woods crashed into a car outside his home after a fight with his wife, Elin Nordegren. The media quickly communicated this transgression to the public, and the scandal took shape as reports of the golf icon's sexual escapades flowed through the global mass media stream (step 2).

In accordance with step 2, the scandal became a significant part of the mass media's self-referential communication and, through its dissemination, achieved a status as being socially relevant information. The scandal‟s mediation was thus the prerequisite for other systems to take up and integrate the scandal in their respective communication. For example, religious groups used the case to campaign for the protection of marriage, and economists saw Tiger Woods as a brand with waning sponsorship value. The dislocated situation in which stable expectation structures where broken thus led to a phase where moral 18

communication came to the fore (step 3). In this instance, the social order was overflowed with discursivity, opening new spaces for re-articulation and new expectation structures driven by moral binaries, such as acceptable/unacceptable and esteem/disdain.

Step 4 established an environmental pressure and construction of various solutions to problems caused by the affair, due to the continued media focus on the celebrity and internal pressure from organizations with close connections to professional golf. The final step (5) saw Tiger Woods in a public confession confirming to treatment for his sex addiction in an attempt to save his marriage (institutional solution).

When tested against the question of effects, the scandal owes its main characteristics to the charismatic pole of the vector model. Tiger Woods reached his charismatic position as a black man who took on the virtues of a traditionally white sport. His strong training ethos – a protestant ethic (Weber, Baehr, & Wells, 2002) – added to his charismatic charm. The exposure of Tiger Wood‟s sexual affairs with other women therefore destabilized certain expectations that were created for the charismatic golfer.

By breaking traditional expectations of marriage (which presumably adhere to the American middle class, and may be especially associated with the gentleman's sport of golf), the Tiger Woods scandal also dislocates significant parts of the vector of tradition. Together, the charismatic and the traditional variables had to bear the scandal, but we cannot observe any breaches of the sport's formal existing rules (the bureaucratic vector).

Seen from an overall perspective, the scandal influenced both communication within mass media and economic communication, with sponsors choosing to break their associations with the dislocated Tiger Woods brand. However, there were no significant changes in political and legal communication, because this case did not lead to legal changes or policy actions.

Although the Tiger Woods scandal had significant media attention, it did not have as widespread an effect as the Festina scandal of Tour de France in 1998, discussed below. Instead, it established shifts in the mass media's communication on golf and led to some institutional adjustments in future sponsorship agreements with the sport's super-icons.

2) The Festina scandal of Tour de France in 1998 had a much larger effect as it involved a dislocation of the bureaucratic dimension due to the systematic and widespread use of doping. Despite claims from the 19

international cycling union, UCI, and additional claims from other parts of the cycling world, that doping was fought intensively, things turned out completely different, thus paving the way for an evolving scandal.

Following the Ben Johnson affair in 1988, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) aimed to become the leader in the fight against doping. A number of ceremonial events during the 1990s marked a momentum in this fight, and UCI also joined the battle – at least on a rhetoric level. The scandal arose as French authorities revealed systematic doping use among cyclists in the face of the IOC and UCI‟s attempts to fight doping (step 1). Tour de France is one of the world‟s biggest sporting mega-events, so the scandal was quickly taken up by the mass media and the political system (step 2). In line with step 3, moral communication turned the cycling heroes of Tour De France into sinners who were met with disdain.

The environmental pressure that evolved in step 4 demanded an alternative solution to the IOC and UCI, who were no longer seen as capable of protecting the sport against future doping scandals. In this process several media were brought in as possible solutions, and the solution was found to be a global hybrid organization capable of combining several communication media in its decision communication – for example legislation, political power and educational initiatives (Wagner, 2009).

Besides being a dislocation of the bureaucratic vector, the scandal also involved a dislocation of the vector of tradition. The demanded solution broke a tradition in which sport enjoys a high level of autonomy from the environment and deals with its own problems and dark sides.

The scandal was, however, to a lesser degree than in the Tiger Woods scandal, dominated by a dislocation of the charismatic variable. Thus it can be argued that the dislocational effect on this variable involved a shift in the view of professional cyclists from heroes with superhuman powers to sinners.

Seen in relation to effect, the Festina scandal involved all four systems outlined in the vector model above, so it had much wider consequences than the Tiger Woods affair. The Festina scandal put so much political pressure on the international sports community that it resulted in the 2003 World Anti-Doping Code, the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a United Nations (UN) convention and subsequent implementation in national and international legislation, and the formation of a series of national anti-doping agencies. 20

Economically, a number of sponsors have become more cautious when engaging with professional cycling teams, writing specific terms and conditions about doping into their sponsorship contracts. Furthermore, the mass media system has continuously thrown new sublime athletic performances into doubt as second-order transgressions have been revealed in new doping cases.

Three working hypotheses for future studies
Given the space available, it is not possible to analyze the two cases in more depth here. However, in light of these cases and theoretical reflections presented above, three working hypotheses guiding future analyses of sporting scandals can be presented:

Moral crisis communications in the early stages of the scandal are mainly disseminated by the mass media system, which contributes to the growing frequency of sports scandals.

Only scandals that have a strong dislocation on the bureaucratic vector lead to widespread institutional change, and can therefore be seen as the most significant scandals by terms of effect.

Few modern sports scandals are characterized by a dislocation of the traditional vector alone, which suggests that this is because contemporary society is post-traditional. Furthermore, sports scandals – due to the sports media‟s semantic fixation on the individual (sporting heroes and heroines) and action – often implicate charismatic dislocations that do not necessarily lead to institutional solutions.

Concluding remarks
In this paper we have aimed to outline a theoretical understanding of a hitherto undeveloped domain in sport studies. Even though the term „sports scandal‟ is frequently used in studies of current problems in sport, it suffers from an absence of conceptual reflection. In order to deal with this, we have tried to theoretically encompass some of the main characteristics and phases of the sports scandal.

We believe that Luhmann‟s systems theoretical framework and the additional reflections on scandals as events of dislocation – a term adopted from discourse theory – have provided a clear understanding of the phenomenon, which takes the structural aspects as well as the question of subjectivity and agency into appropriate account in order to describe the complexity of the social phenomenon: sport scandals. 21

The above reflections must be considered open for future improvement. The model and the theoretical and methodological reasoning behind this model is a project under development, and more research must be done to discover further reasons why some scandals have major effects while others die out quickly. However, it is our hope that this article provides a platform from which this work can emanate.


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Prior to this project a database literature search was carried out. By entering `scandal*´ (thus finding scandals, scandalous, etc.) in the

category `title´ or `key words´ in a period between 1980 and 2010, SocIndex provided 311 references, Sociological Abstracts 152 references and Sport Discuss 43 references. Despite overlaps and the awareness that the search criteria might oversee some contributions, this pool of articles has served as our repertoire of scandal literature.
2 3 4

For a detailed overview of recent sport corruption incidents, see Maening (2005). In a similar way, Luhmann terms this: “propagation media” [Verbreitungsmedien] (1997: 202). It must be noted here that, according to Adut (2005, p. 220), a transgression usually “does not only taint the offender. Individuals and In a way systems and discourse theory differ here. Laclau and Laclau and Mouffe argue that a discourse is never able to make any final

institutions associated with him or her are also contaminated”.

closure (total fixation) while Luhmann argues that a system is closed off to its environment in order to observe at all. As shown to the reader below, these divergences can be addressed by way of a pragmatic articulatory practice connection connecting the two perspectives as it is anticipated that the handling of the paradox in Luhmann‟s systems presupposes the exclusion of meaning by the construction of a semantic boundary that can only be establish temporarily, i.e. is never fixed in completely but always threatened by the excluded elements.

We are aware that some of these efforts might have a superficial and symbolic character. In new institutional literature formal structures

can be labeled myth and ceremony (Meyer & Rowan, 1991) or organizations tend to orientate towards legitimacy by copying other organizations at the dispense of efficiency (Powell & DiMaggio, 1991).