Football in the community: Measuring the social impact of football clubs


   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Adam Cox, Dr Christina Philippou, Dr Joe Cox  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2024. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Christina Philippou, Dr Joe Cox and Dr Adam Cox

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive £2,000 for fieldwork purposes. 

Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.    

The work on this project could involve:

●         Investigating ways in which social impact of football clubs can be measured 

●         Building on existing literature to construct a rigorous methodology for measuring the social impact of clubs on communities

●         Constructing a dataset of measures for social impact using primary and secondary data sources

●         Providing an opportunity for analysing the relationship between social value and financial or economic performance

●         Working in partnership with external organisations and relevant football clubs to deliver thesis results and recommendations contributing to both the research on social impact and practical real-world applications.

Project description

The anticipated introduction of the Football Governance Bill (covering men’s football) and the 2023 Future of Women’s Football Review in England highlighted the importance of football clubs as heritage assets. The fostering of a sense of belonging, community, and ultimately societal value has in part provided a public good that would otherwise not be present without the football club. Social impacts are often seen through changes to health and wellbeing of participants in sport or changes to education and criminal activity. 

A number of football clubs in England have experienced financial difficulties since the Premier League was created in 1992, and even some of the best-performing clubs are not resilient to external economic shocks. In many other industries, the financial stability of competing firms is unimportant to consumers, but the impact on society created by participation and engagement are seen as valuable public goods and, with respect to the aims of regulation, require protecting. 

Social value is often complex to measure but is vital to understand when considering the value of football clubs to the wider economy and policies that distribute financial support. Alongside the growing use of sport as a policy tool to promote societal benefits, there is a corresponding growing academic literature. However, the evidence surrounding the social impact of football is less developed, with estimates of the social impact of English football clubs and a corresponding rigorous methodology remains a gap in current scientific knowledge.

This thesis will contribute to the literature on social impact in football. Beyond a contribution to knowledge, the results will be of direct relevance in ongoing policy discussions for professional and semi-professional football clubs, league organisers, and central government.

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

This opportunity would suit a person with a desire to engage with stakeholders and policy-makers to inform current policy discussions using rigorous academic research. Experience of using qualitative or quantitative research techniques is essential.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Christina Philippou ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code AE&F8940124 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.


Business & Management (5) Economics (10) Sport & Exercise Science (33)

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive £2,000 for fieldwork purposes.
Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.