Hampshire FA Football on Pitch

PhD Opportunity with the University of Winchester & Hampshire FA

University of Winchester
Applications are invited from suitably qualified individuals wishing to undertake doctoral research

PHD Opportunity

Changing the psychological climate of UK junior grassroots football to enhance player wellbeing and performance

An opportunity has arisen for a self-funded PhD within the University of Winchester’s Faculty of Health and Wellbeing. Applications are invited from suitably qualified individuals wishing to undertake doctoral research and join a supportive and research-active community.


Project description

English grassroots football has a unique an complex culture that is created by players, coaches, referees, parents, and club officials. Grassroots football caters for all ages, with most participation within the junior and youth levels. Therefore, grassroots football provides an organised learning environment for young footballers. Encouragingly, previous research conducted on parent and coach behaviour has found competitive grassroot environments to be extremely rewarding and positive. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that the grassroots football matchday environment can produce significant negative impacts. The negative aspects of the environment can lead to referee attrition, ego-oriented coaching, poor wellbeing in players, and physical confrontation between parents. Despite great efforts at national and regional level to change behaviour, there are still substantial issues within English grassroots football.

Previous one-off behavioural initiatives implemented by Hampshire Football Association to produce a positive matchday experience for players have not fulfilled long-term behaviour change ambitions. Therefore, different approaches are warranted to improve the matchday experience of all those involved to create a positive learning environment for young footballers. To develop a greater learning environment, there is a need to explore, evaluate and develop the psychological climate of the competitive matchday environment to ensure a reduction or elimination of damaging negative aspects.

The aim of this project is to explore and develop the matchday psychological climate of junior grassroots football in Hampshire, UK to enhance player wellbeing and performance. The objectives are:

(1) to examine the perceptions of junior grassroots football matchday stakeholders (i.e. coaches, parents, players, officials) to identify the positive and negative experiences,

(2) to develop a behavioural intervention that can be implemented into the environment, and

(3) to measure the success of the intervention.

This research project will adopt a predominantly qualitative research design, through thematic analysis of interview, focus group and survey data. However, quantitative methods may be used in participant observation and project evaluation.

This PhD project will contribute to ongoing research within the Sport and Exercise Research Centre. The successful candidate will work closely with the Hampshire Football Association, providing an excellent level of industry engagement.

Candidates will require a Master’s degree or equivalent in a related subject (examples include Sport Coaching, Sport Psychology, and Sport and Exercise Science). Candidates must be able to demonstrate sound knowledge and experience of research methodologies that are commonly used in psychological and sociological research. The ability to work independently, with the support of a supervisory team, and the enthusiasm to contribute to a vibrant and stimulating research environment are essential.

For more information on this project please contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Steve Smith.


How to apply

The application deadline for this PhD opportunity is 31 May 2022; the start date is September 2022. Applicants should fill out the Research Degree Application Form, available on our How to Apply webpage, in accordance with the guidelines on this page.


Further information

Registration periods are 3 years full-time and 6 years part-time, with one year for post-viva amendments. Fees are payable until award. Financial details can be found here: Postgraduate Research Financial Information.

Applicants who hold Master’s level qualifications from outside the UK must send copies of their diplomas, copies of their transcripts (with a certified translation into English of their transcript if it is not in English) to the University of Winchester Doctoral School.

Students currently enrolled in a Master’s qualification who expect to graduate before September 2022 may apply, but must submit with their application a separate recommendation letter from their current university (if not Winchester) that predicts the standing of their expected qualification.

Any queries can be directed at the University of Winchester Doctoral School by emailing pgradmin@winchester.ac.uk.