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Evidence-based Classification for Footballers with Vision Impairment: Setting Class Boundaries

   Vision & Eye Research Institute

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  Prof Peter Allen  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

About Anglia Ruskin University:

Anglia Ruskin is a vibrant workplace and our university is recognised both nationally and internationally. We have ambitious plans for the future, and we are determined that our students and staff will realise their full potential. Our main campuses in the cities of Cambridge, Chelmsford, London and Peterborough have been transformed with major capital investment. With an annual turnover of over £200m, we are a major force for higher education and one of the largest universities in the East of England.

About the position:

The classification system presently used for blind football adopts the same three classes used historically by most other sports for athletes who have vision impairment (B3/B2/B1). However, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Classification Code states that all sports should have their own sport-specific classification system, and therefore football is not compliant with the requirements of the code. This exciting project will run in collaboration with the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), with the aim of moving towards code compliance in football through the development of sport-specific classification. At present, IBSA offers two different classes in which athletes can compete: a combined B3/B2 class for those with some vision, and a B1 class for those who are essentially blind (the goalkeeper can be fully sighted). During some events, separate competitions are held for the B3/B2 and the B1 classes, but during the Paralympic games, it is only the B1 class that is able to compete. At present, there is no clear or evidence-based rationale for why athletes are grouped into the B3/B2 and the B1 classes as they presently are in football. Clearly evidence is required to demonstrate (i) the minimum level of impairment required to take part in football, and (ii) what the most appropriate classes should be for eligible athletes.

Work to establish the minimum level of impairment has been undertaken including the gathering of expert opinions from those involved with the sport and the development of football specific tests (see Runswick et al., 2021) and the impact of different simulated vision impairments on penalty kicks (Runswick, Timmis & Allen – pending). The purpose of this PhD is to establish what the most appropriate classes should be for eligible athletes which is robust enough to appropriately capture the different elements involved in football (scanning ability, kicking, tackling and running).This research will involve multiple stages that employ a variety of methodological approaches. Aspects of the project may include

·      Working with large datasets to develop appropriate tests and measures (both sporting and vision) for use in classification

·      Spending time at IBSA Football competitions conducting vision and standardized performance tests with athletes and linking this to key performance variables.

·      Collecting data in the sports laboratory to investigate the impact of vision loss on different aspects of football

·      The project will also incorporate a science communication element where the findings will be communicated back to the football community with the aim to implement new classification guidelines.

The successful applicant will benefit from strong supervisory support and will be based at the School of Psychology and Sport Science at ARU while working in collaboration with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London (KCL). The supervisory team will be led by Prof Peter Allen (ARU)  - https://aru.ac.uk/people/peter-allen and

supported by Dr Oliver Runswick (KCL) and Dr Matthew Timmis (ARU) - https://aru.ac.uk/people/matthew-timmis.

About the Studentship:

A three-year studentship is offered, intended to start in September 2022, providing a tax-free stipend of £16,062 per annum plus tuition fees at the UK rate. Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only available as a full-time position and to UK candidates.

Project location: Cambridge campus. Prospective candidates who would not be Cambridge-based are encouraged to contact the principal supervisor prior to application (contact details below).

Candidates for this PhD Studentship must demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD within 3 years.

There will be an expectation of the student to travel to competitions across the U.K. - travel and subsistence costs will be covered.


Applicants should have a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant discipline (e.g., Psychology, Audiology or Optometry, Sport and Exercise Science realted degree) and/or a relevant level 7 (or equivalent) qualification (e.g., Masters degree). An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (or equivalent) is essential for candidates for whom English is not their first language. A good understanding of statistical analysis and experience of either qualitative or quantitative research methods is desirable.

In addition to satisfying basic entry criteria, the University will look closely at the qualities, skills, and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful and timely completion.

How to apply:

To apply, please visit Optometry and Vision Sciences MPhil, PhD, click "Apply online" and complete the application form for full-time study with a start date of September 2022. Please ensure the reference ‘Evidence-based Classification for Footballers with Vision Impairment: Setting Class Boundaries' is clearly stated on the application form, under the title 'Outline of your proposed research'. Within this section of the application form, applicants should include a 500-word outline of the skills that they would bring to this research project and previous experience of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Interested applicants should direct initial queries about the project to Dr Peter Allen () and Dr Oliver Runswick (). For enquiries regarding the process and eligibility please contact .

Interviews are scheduled to take place during the period week commencing 11th July 2022.

We value diversity at Anglia Ruskin University and welcome applications from all sections of the community.

Funding Notes

Bursary of £16,062 per annum and a full fee-waiver for UK tuition fees.


Prof Allen, Dr Runswickand Dr Timmis have extensive experience working together researching vision in sport, including previous work on the minimum impairment criteria for football. Prof Allen specialises in vision impairment both as an optometrist and researcher. He has over 100 publications in high impact journals, has supervised 10 PGRs to completion and recently received a VC award for his PGR supervision. Dr Runswick specialises in the visual underpinnings of human performance; he is the current British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) Prof Edward Winter Early Career Researcher Award holder and supervises PGRs in sport and military research. Dr Timmis is a BASES accredited Sport & Exercise Scientist and Chartered Scientist. He has expertise in measuring visual search behaviour in sport and analysing performance measures in sport.
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