The Co-Construction of Employment Relations in Semi-Professional Sport Leagues

Christopher M. McLeod, Calvin Nite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Semi-professional leagues are increasingly used to develop athletes. However, what we know of athletes’ employment comes from research on professional athletes and does not translate to semi-professionalism. Thus, the purpose of this research was to explore how athletes and employers co-constructed employment relations in two new semi-professional rugby union leagues. Primary data consisted of 24 interviews with stakeholders and 30 surveys completed by athletes. Secondary data consisted of 36 publicly available interviews. Employers used control strategies to limit athletes’ pay and agency. Athletes and employers co-constructed role identity positions that promoted certain attitudes, expectations, and employee behaviors. Aspiring athletes constructed an athlete identity with employers, which favored symbolic rewards instead of pay. When athletes joined teams, they constructed a professional identity with employers. Role identity position construction has implications for research on semi-professional leagues and the study of athlete labor relations more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-38
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Global Sport Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • Employment relations
  • identity construction
  • professional identity
  • semi-professional leagues
  • single-entity


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