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Dynamics of the football-surface interaction in match-play

Sport and Physical Activity Research Centre

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Mr M Dunn No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


The Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) Vice-Chancellor PhD scholarship scheme represents a prestigious opportunity for excellent students to conduct world-leading research in collaboration with key industry partners. SHU and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have identified a significant and industry-wide challenge in the development and regulation of footballs, requiring in-depth understanding of football and turf interaction.


As the world governing body of association football, FIFA’s goal is to improve the football experience on and off the pitch. FIFA’s Football Technology Innovation Department is tasked with ensuring that any changes to the game are evidence-based. The football-surface interaction represents a fundamental characteristic of the game, as this interaction shapes affordances (i.e. opportunities for action) presented to players when passing or striking the ball. However, and in comparison to other sports (e.g. golf, tennis), the understanding of football-surface interaction dynamics during match-play is limited. Further, industry-wide football sustainability challenges, including the use of recycled materials in sustainable football production and the restriction of rubber crumb in artificial pitches, highlight the importance of high-quality research in this area.
The Centre for Sports Engineering Research (CSER), an internationally renowned centre of excellence for research and knowledge transfer in the field of sports engineering, will support this PhD project through its world-leading research facilities and expertise on ball-surface interaction modelling. In this PhD, a series of field- and laboratory-based experiments will be performed using a range of footballs and surfaces. An advanced, numerical model of a football and surface interaction will then be obtained from this data set using appropriate data processing techniques. This model will then be used to simulate a range of typical football-surface interactions, to quantify the relationship between mechanical properties of the football and surface, as well as inbound and outbound trajectories. This PhD project will provide an excellent opportunity for the student to engage directly with relevant industry partners (e.g. FIFA), share research with relevant forums (e.g. FIFA Research Symposium, other relevant symposia), and inform future football governance on football-surface interaction.

Entry requirements

Successful applicants will:
• Hold a good undergraduate degree (2:1 or first) in a relevant subject (e.g. Sport Science, Sport Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science).
• Hold a Master’s degree in a relevant area (e.g. Sport Science, Sport Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science) or equivalent professional research experience.
• Have a strong minimum of English proficiency (IELTS minimum overall score of 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component)
The successful candidate would have experience of programming, data modelling and working with large data sets. They should be academically talented, be self-motivated, autonomous and have excellent problem-solving abilities. In addition, the successful candidate will also have excellent interpersonal skills and confidence in communication. The candidate will have experience in literature searching and reviewing, quantitative analysis and report writing. Desirable attributes would include professional or research experience in sports engineering, data handling and quantitative analysis.

Supervision team:
The PhD supervision team comprises Dr Marcus Dunn, Dr Simon Goodwill, Dr Simon Choppin and Mr Johsan Billingham.

Application Process

Candidates should apply to Sheffield Hallam University via the University’s application form, including a 1500 word research proposal in section 9 demonstrating your background reading on the topic of the PhD and your plans for how you would undertake this programme of research. Please send applications forms, supporting documentation and references to [Email Address Removed]

Further information

Further project information can be found at:
You can access an application form at:
For informal enquiries about the project please contact: Dr Marcus Dunn: [Email Address Removed]
For more information on the application process please contact: [Email Address Removed]

•Deadline for applications 10th July 2020
•Interviews will be held online, w/c 20th July 2020
•Studentship begins 1st October 2020

Funding Notes

PhD Research Studentship (full-time for 3 years)

Stipend: £15,309 per annum

A three-year PhD studentship is available to UK, EU and overseas students. The studentship covers home/EU tuition fees, stipend equivalent to full UK Research Council rate plus a generous travel, subsistence, and equipment bench fee – supported by FIFA – of up to £1,500 per annum. International students must cover tuition fee shortfall (approx. £8,200 per year).
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