Funded PhD Opportunity The disabled supporter as an activist for social inclusion throughout European football

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism


Sport has long been used as a vehicle for political advocacy across a range of issues.  Recent scholarship has drawn attention to activist athletes and coaches in elite disability sport and how these voices challenge ableism within sport.  This project seeks to examine activism on the part of the disabled supporters in the context of football. Disabled supporters can include any individual with mobility, sensory, and/or learning impairments that make use of accessible services when attending sport.  For over 50 years football clubs across Europe have been delivering spectator services for these fans. Much of this provision has been instigated by clubs seeking to offer a more inclusive spectator experience. However, in many cases it is the involvement of Disabled Supporters Associations, advocacy organizations (like the Centre for Access to Football in Europe), and/or individual fans that have instigated change and work in partnership with clubs to maintain increased levels of access.

This project seeks to understand the importance of disabled supporters in initiating change, whilst exploring the barriers they face when seeking to obtain service-improvements. To this end, the objectives of this research study are;

*To explore how the agency of disabled supporters can facilitate change

*To understand how the lived experience of disabled supporters varies by country and level of competition

*To recognise the barriers that have restricted spectatorship, both at the stadium and in preparations to travel to and from the event

*To explore how they feel changes in the external environment (legislation, technology, culture) have impacted their efforts to improve disabled spectator services

Methods to be used:

In order to address these objectives, a predominantly qualitative research design will be used, drawing on different types and modes of interviews and focus groups, with opportunities to explore creative or novel methodologies in order to explore the key themes around agency, activism, ableism and accessibility within the social setting of European football.

This project would suit applicants interested in exploring organisational change, social inclusion and issues concerning agency within a mature institution that is international in scope.  Flexibility is available within the project for the applicant to develop the research to suit current developments in the field and their personal interests.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
mid-March 2019


Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses

Contact Supervisor

Dr Paul Kitchin

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #344769 when applying for this PhD opportunity