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The Dark Side of Social Capital: An Ethnography of Sport Governance

This article extends the discussion on the ‘dark side’ of social capital in sport which has recently been increasingly conceptualized in civil society studies. We define the dark side of social capital as situations in which trust, social ties and shared beliefs and norms that may be beneficial to some persons are detrimental to other individuals, sport movements, or for society at large. Furthermore, we understand the dark side of social capital as attempts to manipulate and misuse trust to achieve a particular interest. We argue that the majority of studies using the notion of the dark side have investigated primarily sport practice rather than sport governance and have focused on either the macro- or micro-level, neglecting the meso-level. Additionally, previous studies have focused primarily on the exclusive role of bonding social networks at the expense of linking social capital and manipulation of trust. To contribute to reducing these gaps, our analysis draws on evidence gathered during a multi-sited ethnographic study of Czech and Italian sports associations governing football, handball and sailing.