Entrepreneurship in the Time of COVID-19
World history has seen numerous recessions that have affected all sectors globally, and until the eruption of COVID-19, the crisis of 2008 was considered one of the most recent, longest, and most significant economic recessions in the capitalist era [16
]. The main causes of crises can be very diverse, and the effects are different according to the organisation [17
]. However, although crises occur cyclically, it is not easy for organisations to identify, let alone adapt to, sudden and dramatic changes [18
]. It is therefore important to have the capacity to adapt by training during a normal situation. According to Pollard and Hotho [19
], “scenario planning assists managers in developing wider views of the future, as it affects their organisation and provides deeper insights than are otherwise available during the analysis of the external environment”.
We are currently going through a difficult stage, as the crisis resulting from COVID-19 is one of the most significant that the international sports sector has suffered in recent years [7
]. According to Khandwalla [20
], most organisations are affected by environmental uncertainty, environmental hostility, and complexity. Any of these environmental properties are increased during a crisis. However, although recessionary stages are related to negative effects on the economic, labour, and social spheres, from an entrepreneurial perspective, such times can also be interpreted as opportunities to reinvent oneself. According to Schumpeter [21
], crises or adverse situations can offer opportunities to grow and gain a competitive advantage over competitors, known as “the process of creative destruction” (p. 81).
Due to the hostile and unpredictable situations generated by crises [22
], creativity and innovation can be encouraged [23
], and a recession can be seen as an opportunity to generate competitive advantage. This can be framed by the phrase “necessity sharpens one’s wits”. In this context, organisations need to adopt innovative and proactive behaviours to create value, gain competitive advantages, and maintain pre-crisis performance levels. The influence of entrepreneurship on performance in hostile and turbulent environments was previously studied years ago by Covin and Slevin [24
]. However, studies that look at the same organisation before, during, or after a crisis are scarce, perhaps even non-existent, in the sports field.
The uncertainty generated by the eruption of COVID-19 in our modern society may have consequences on the business model of organisations and on entrepreneurial behaviour. In a very short space of time, the sports sector has changed drastically [7
], as have the actions of organisations that operate in this sector. Entrepreneurship is made up of the dimensions of innovation, proactivity, and risk-taking [25
], and these dimensions can be developed to a greater or lesser extent by sports organisations. There is a broad consensus in the literature that the dimensions of entrepreneurial orientation should be treated separately [26
]; therefore, in this study, this construct has been analysed in a multidimensional way.
“Proactiveness is an opportunity-seeking, forward-looking perspective characterized by the introduction of new products and services ahead of competition and acting in anticipation of the future demand” [27
] (p. 928). In addition, a proactive organisation conducts a thorough analysis of its external and internal environment to develop strategic measures before its competition. Many authors have analysed the proactive personality and its relationship with the final performance of the organisation in times of crisis [28
]. “A time of crisis can create market opportunities that can best be addressed with innovative and proactive postures” [30
] (p. 206).
In this context, market gaps must be addressed from a creative and proactive perspective to achieve and maintain competitiveness in the sports sector [7
]. In the same vein, Laitinen [31
] points out that organisations that under unfavourable economic conditions have a rapid, proactive, and user-oriented response stand a greater chance of success. However, this has not been studied in non-profit sports organisations before and during a crisis, and there is therefore a gap in sports and organisational literature. Nevertheless, from the related existing literature, we can extract the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1 (H1).
Proactivity has increased in sports clubs since the COVID-19 crisis.
“Risk-taking is understood as the level of risk that the management of the entities is willing to assume, exposing notably own resources with the projection of achieving benefits as a return” [13
] (p. 3). In this context, the “organizational risk-taking tolerance” construct, which reflects the organisation’s capacity to manage knowledge, is highlighted, allowing new opportunities to be identified and encouraging risky and entrepreneurial behaviour and attitudes [32
]. Currently, there are no studies that have analysed changes in general entrepreneurship or in any of its dimensions (innovation, proactivity, and risk-taking) before, during, or after a crisis in sports organisations. However, it is possible to think that due to the need for sports organisations to take quick and proactive innovative measures, they are likely to adopt faster and riskier behaviour than they would in a normal situation. This risky behaviour can be detrimental to organisations in times of recession or uncertainty [27
]. However, it may be necessary to achieve benefits that would not be achieved by conservative and passive behaviour. Hence, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Hypothesis 2 (H2).
Risk-taking has increased in sports clubs since the COVID-19 crisis.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are the engines of recovery and prosperity [21
]. They can be implemented in the current crisis situation derived from COVID-19. Therefore, sports organisations must be proactive and innovative because if they are not willing to react, or do not react in the right way, it may have negative repercussions on their performance in the short and medium term [7
]. The management of emotions and behaviours resulting from a crisis must be controlled quickly and channelled in a positive and entrepreneurial direction.
“Innovation is essential for competitiveness, not only but also, during economic crisis periods” [33
] (p. 10). However, innovation should not be understood merely as the introduction of new products, services, or processes but also as the exploration and exploitation of resources available to the organisation to extract maximum benefit [13
]. This is important since, in a crisis, perception of risk may increase due to uncertain economic effects [34
]; consequently, it may be easier to identify and exploit opportunities and existing resources than to invest in new resources in the organisation. Based on the existing literature, the following hypothesis is considered:
Hypothesis 3 (H3).
Innovation has increased in sports clubs since the COVID-19 crisis.
However, are there organisations that are more resilient in the face of a crisis? According to Lee et al. [18
], organisations that have invested in capacity and resource development in normal situations can benefit from sudden change. Similarly, according to Soininen et al. [27
], organisations with higher levels of entrepreneurship survive a crisis better than those with lower levels of entrepreneurship. However, according to the abovementioned authors, proactivity and innovation have a positive effect on final performance, while risk-taking has a negative effect. This can be explained by the fact that they relate risk-taking to external investments and not to entrepreneurial measures. Therefore, not only is the behaviour of an organisation in the recession situation itself important; the behaviour of an entity in a pre-recession context of normality also has an influence on performance.
Sports organisations, in normal situations, struggle with financial difficulties due to increasing competition. However, this struggle grows in times of crisis, such as the one derived from COVID-19. In this context, service quality is considered one of the most important factors in the resolution of financial problems [35
]. Different authors have studied the relationship between entrepreneurship and other performance variables in the sports field [14
], specifically service quality as an outcome variable [37
]. Considering the existing organisational literature, generally, the entrepreneurial variables have a positive effect on the final performance of an organisation. Similarly, the SE–SQ relationship has been analysed in sports organisations in normal situations (not in a crisis context), and a positive relationship has been found [37
]. From this, we can extract the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 4 (H4).
SE positively effects SQ in sports clubs both before and after the crisis resulting from COVID-19.