Lad ikke en alvorlig krise gå til spilde: En empirisk analyse af krisekommunikation i professionelle, danske fodboldklubber

Mikkel Ries Davidsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Today, professional Danish football clubs are no longer associations of volunteers and amateur players but streamlined enterprises turning over yearly amounts in the double-digit million range. Compared to the broad Danish business community, the clubs are experiencing extensive media coverage and massive public interest. Modern, professional football clubs have a wide variety of committed and passionate stakeholders and are also characterised by the strong dependency relationships between the clubs’ finances and their success in domestic and international football. These distinctive traits make football clubs more exposed to crises than “ordinary” organisations and hence a very interesting field of study. The purpose of this thesis is to apply the theoretical framework of crisis communication on the very practical field of crisis communication in Danish football clubs. To be more precise, the thesis examines how the clubs communicate during crises. The normative nature of this problem statement dictates an answer with both exploratory and evaluating elements. Based on Lloyd Bitzer’s (1968) theory of exigence, audience and constraints (the constituents of the rhetorical situation), the thesis sets out to analyse the immediate rhetorical situation that occurs following the rise of a crisis. Based on the theory of William L. Benoit (1995), the thesis will furthermore analyse the employment of rhetorical image restoration strategies in the clubs’ crisis communication. The empirical data for these analyses consist of newspaper and online articles about four selected professional, Danish football clubs: Odense Boldklub, FC København, Brøndby IF and Aalborg BK. The theoretical standpoint of the thesis is grounded on a post-modernist and socio-constructive view on crises and crisis communication. Thus, the thesis believes crises to be dynamic processes that are constructed linguistically and are initiated by an individual or objective trigger event. Crises themselves are constructed, described, maintained and resolved communicatively. The thesis concurs with the tendency in recent crisis communication literature as well as in the general business communities to treat crises as opportunities for organisational development. The thesis is especially inspired by Hearit & Courtright’s (2003) theory of terminological control that calls for a proactive approach to the crisis communication effort. The major findings of the thesis indicate that the rhetorical scenarios of the crisis-ridden football clubs are vast and complex consisting of multiple and diverse exigencies, audiences and constraints all influencing the crisis communication process. Moreover, the analytical findings of the thesis show a clear trend in the clubs’ crisis communication towards a reactive and defensive use of rhetorical strategies. In general, the clubs tend to employ rhetorical strategies that reduce offensiveness and evade responsibility. The concluding remark of the thesis is that the Danish football clubs by incorporating a more proactive take on crisis communication would gain the possibility to set the agenda and put a positive spin on the crises. By doing so, crises could become opportunities instead of threats.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages138