Professionalisation and competitive balance in English men’s elite rugby union 1995-2021

CATLIN, Eleanor Jayne (2022). Professionalisation and competitive balance in English men’s elite rugby union 1995-2021. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis determines the level of competitive balance in English men’s elite rugby union since the sport turned professional in 1995. Academic literature surrounding the concept of competitive balance is vast, and significantly differs dependent on geographical location, the sport analysed, and the measurements used. However, very few publications have looked at the sport of rugby union and the games unique make up of individual factors that aim to increase competition. The top three tiers of English men’s rugby union have been analysed to understand competition at the elite level of the sport. Factors such as the salary cap, bonus points and playoffs have been scrutinised to determine their impact and contribution to the competitive nature of rugby union. The study utilises a mixed method approach to analyse these factors, among other variables, and reveals several findings. Firstly, calculations of the HICB index identifies all three leagues analysed have become more competitive since the professionalisation of the sport in 1995, yet there are still improvements required in the leagues to ensure fair and equal opportunities. Furthermore, the transition between the Premiership and Championship does not aid the competitiveness of the leagues. Instead, an externality is produced as an unintended consequence of promotion and relegation which has not yet been addressed by league organisers. Finally, quantitative analysis within this study concludes 93.3% of Premiership league places are unaffected by the inclusion of bonus points in the league, a percentage that increases to 99.4% in the Championship. It is therefore proposed that this system requires reconsideration to maximise the use of this competition strategy. The contribution to knowledge of this thesis is the addition of qualitative input in a predominantly quantitative field. The qualitative analysis provides real-life application of the quantitative findings. In addition, this thesis has extended our understanding of competitive balance in leagues below the topmost tier of English men’s rugby union.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Wilson, Robert [0000-0002-9657-7570]
Thesis advisor - Plumley, Dan [0000-0001-7875-0969]
Additional Information: Director of Studies: Dr Robert Wilson Supervisor: Dr Dan Plumley
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Justine Gavin
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2023 11:13
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2023 02:01

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