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

   School of Psychology and Sport Science

  Prof Peter Allen  Friday, October 21, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Fixed term contract for 3 years, commencing January 2023.

Bursary of £17,668 per annum and a full fee-waiver for UK tuition fees.

Closing date: Friday 21 October 2022

Interview date: Weeks commencing 31 October and 7 November 2022

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) and supported by Dr Oliver Runswick (KCL) and Dr Matthew Timmis (ARU).

Prof Allen, Dr Runswick and 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.

About the Studentship:

Three-year studentship, intended to start January 2023, providing a tax-free stipend of £17,668 per annum plus tuition fees at the UK rate. Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only available as a full-time position 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 must demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete the PhD within 3 years.

There is an expectation of the student to travel to competitions across the UK - 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 related 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 https://aru.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/optometry-and-vision-sciences, click "Apply online" and complete the application form for full-time study with a start date of January 2023. 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 .

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

For full T&Cs visit https://aru.ac.uk/science-and-engineering/research/research-project-opportunities/vision-and-hearing-sciences

Closing Date Friday 21 October 2022.

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