Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 621–634 | Cite as

Ethical Code Effectiveness in Football Clubs: A Longitudinal Analysis

  • Bram ConstandtEmail author
  • Els De Waegeneer
  • Annick Willem
Original Paper


As football (soccer) clubs are facing different ethical challenges, many clubs are turning to ethical codes to counteract unethical behaviour. However, both in- and outside the sport field, uncertainty remains about the effectiveness of these ethical codes. For the first time, a longitudinal study design was adopted to evaluate code effectiveness. Specifically, a sample of non-professional football clubs formed the subject of our inquiry. Ethical code effectiveness was assessed by the measurement of the ethical climate. A repeated-measurements ANOVA revealed a positive evolution of the ethical climate within the studied football clubs. This evolution could not be ascribed to the mere presence of an ethical code. However, several potential code effectiveness determining characteristics were also included in the research design. Some of these accounted partly for the evolution of the ethical climate of the football clubs. Results suggest that football clubs should incorporate their ethical code into a broader ethical programme, with attention for professionalization initiatives, stakeholder management, ethical leadership, and whistle-blowing protection.


Code effectiveness Ethical climate Ethical code Ethical programme Football clubs Longitudinal analysis 



The authors would like to thank their colleagues Delfien Van Dyck and Maïté Verloigne for their advice regarding the data analysis.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that there are no potential conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bram Constandt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Els De Waegeneer
    • 1
  • Annick Willem
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Movement and Sports SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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