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Girls’ elite football in England and the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender and social class


   School of Science & Technology

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  Dr Ali Bowes  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The proposed PhD study will explore minority ethnic girls’ accessibility to and/or retention within elite youth football in England. During the 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championships, the issue of racial inequality in the England women’s set up was widely commented on within popular media channels (The Guardian, 2022). These contestations highlighted a need for further research within the women’s game, specifically at grassroots and/or elite youth level, to understand the complexities for those who may be marginalised due to their race or ethnicity, and/or those who are socio-economically disadvantaged (Allison, 2019).  

Although there is a growing body of research relating to the experiences of Black and Asian men in football (Hylton, 2010; Campbell, 2016; Kilvington, 2019; Burdsey, 2020), research pertaining to minority ethnic women in football is minimal (Scraton et al., 2005), and this remains the case (Williams, 2013; Ratna, 2013; Bowes and Culvin, 2020). As a result, this research explores the intersections of gender and race, alongside social class, within youth football in England. 

In England, elite girls’ football is undergoing a large restructure in light of issues of accessibility and growth. At present though, there are 34 Regional Talent Centres (RTC) considered to be operating at the elite level of the game. Alongside the RTC’s, the FA implemented ‘Girls’ Advanced Coaching Centres’ (ACC) which provide additional training and fixtures for talented players and aim to bridge the gap from grassroots football. However, the geographically remote/rural locations of RTC’s may have enforced marginalisation of communities that are based in urban locations and therefore restricted access to elite football structures, many of whom are from minority ethnic communities.  

Additionally, insight into the girls and women’s football workforce is also necessary, as Bradbury (2017) explains that racialised minorities are excluded from football coaching and management opportunities.  As a consequence, there may be a lack of cultural understanding and sensitivity towards players, parent and carers (Lusted et al., 2020).   

The aims of this research are as follows:  

  • Analyse the structure, policy and practice of the elite girls’ football pathway in England, with respect to social class, race and ethnicity. 
  • Examine the experiences of minority ethnic girls’, and their parents, within both elite and grassroots pathway to better understand issues of access and opportunity.  
  • Explore cultural sensitivity within the elite girls’ football workforce, and how this may impact upon the needs of minority ethnic athletes and parents.  
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