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Sports Clubs’ Volunteers: Bonding In or Bridging Out?

The aim of this study is to re-evaluate the nature of bonding and bridging social capital in sports clubs. Exploratory research involving interviews with club volunteers reveals that shared values and norms of commitment to the sport or the club are an important dimension of homophilic and heterophilic ties. These are expressed in the recruitment of new volunteers and explain the reluctance to recruit from outside the club. While ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ are to some extent a product of gender, age, ethnicity and other demographic characteristics recognized by previous studies, this article identifies the importance of subjective perceptions in defining bonding and bridging ties. It is suggested that this will be more important in voluntary associations which are expressions of shared values. Further, this suggests the potential of more inductive qualitative research to unravel the complex and nuanced barriers to developing social capital through sports clubs and other associations.