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Understanding Sport Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME’s): Impacts and Implications for Regional Development in the North-East of England

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Blakey
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

According to the European Commission (2003) any enterprise with fewer than 250 employees is classified as an SME. National and local economies are highly dependent on the success of SME’s, since they account for a compelling 99.8% of businesses, and were the main source of new job growth in the UK in 2012-2013 (latest available figures). Their resilience and adaptability have become increasingly important in the contemporary economic climate. In fact, the number of SME’s increased by 37% between 2005-2012, compared to a 14% increase in the number of large firms during the same period (Small Business Outlook, 2013).

Our recent work (Blakey, Elkington & Mcfadyen, in press) aiming to determine the current position of SMEs in the UK sport industry has revealed that sport SME’s recurrently escape the purview of mainstream classificatory measures. Current understanding of sport SMEs is restricted largely due to the theoretical and methodological biases that have informed existing research. In an intriguing statistic the East Midlands and the North East experienced the highest increase in small business confidence from across the UK. However, the question of such confidence extending into sport SMEs in these regions is one to be posed.

The impact of the study is set to be the capacity to administer tailored business support for sport SMEs in the North East through development of a regional sport SME classificatory tool. Recent small business growth in the North East is largely attributable to a European Regional Development Funded (ERDF) project that has seen £1.4m invested into small business support projects between 2007-13. The ERDF project was last year extended to run until June 2015, after which time it will cease. It is unclear, for the reasons outlined in the description above, as to the extent to which sport SMEs have been supported through this project, or where these businesses might subsequently turn for specialised (sport-specific) support. A regionally-facing sport SME classificatory tool would provide the basis for just such support, building on relationships established with regional sport SMEs through this project.

Funding Notes

This studentship is only open to self-funding candidates. Self-funding candidates are expected to pay University fees and to provide their own living costs. In addition, a ‘bench fee’ will have to be paid to cover project running costs (at a level that will be determined specifically for each project).


Blakey, P., Elkington, S. & Mcfadyen, G. (under review) ‘Understanding Small & Medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s) in Sport’ European Sport Management Quarterly.

A summary of this paper has been published on Sports Think Tank on 1st June 2015

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