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Boxing in the Community – Moving Beyond the Myths of Sports’ Positive Potentials to Reduce Violence

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student


The link between martial arts and violence reduction has long been assumed and anecdotally measured. Some recent research by Matthews and colleagues calls these links into question (Channon and Matthews, 2018; Matthews et al 2022). The evaluation and monitoring of such programmes are usually either short-term (12 weeks is common), or if longer, focuses on simplistic quantitative measures (e.g. numbers of participants). The outcomes of research are often linked to continued programme funding which leads to several ethical and methodological concerns (Matthews, et al, 2022). In particular, Matthews argues that long-term community-orientated research is required in order to move beyond poorly designed evaluation and monitoring of programmes in order to use sport as a social development tool.

The Pythian Club is a home for martial arts and community sports in the Old Basford area of the City of Nottingham. Their aims of developing social impact, equity and mobility inform the various sports-based sessions they run across the week. In particular, they use boxing as a ‘hook’ to attract the kind of young people that tend to not engage in such civic-orientated programmes. Alongside learning the skills of boxing, the coaches at The Pythian Club focus on developing community cohesion, mentoring young people, encouraging youth leadership, well-being and associated social skills, as well as a specific focus on anti-violence, specifically knife crime.

The focus of this project will be to work with The Pythian Club to help them refine their existing anti-violence programmes and generate knowledge about enhancing good practices and mitigating poor practices. Findings from the work will contribute at a community level by shaping future practice and lessons will be shared with other local sporting initiatives. Further afield, the findings and research design will be presented in various ways to governing bodies, scholars and practitioners who are interested in developing sports’ positive potential.

This project has been co-created and is supported by researchers from Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham and partners at The Pythian club. The successful candidate for this project would be enrolled at Nottingham Trent University.

Project Aims

This project aims to combine the agenda of recent sports research with the social aims of The Pythian Club to address the following aims:

  1. Use co-creation methods with community partners and club participants to explore an anti-violence programme in the heart of Nottingham.
  2. Work with local coaches and participants to refine the delivery of their programmes in line with their needs and those of the wider community.
  3. Understand how boxing might reduce violence.
  4. Attempt to explore the experiences of those who drop out of boxing programs. This population is almost completely absent from research on the topic and more broadly sports development programmes.

Project Supervisors

What is Co(l)laboratory?

Co(l)laboratory is pioneering new programme supported by Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham and the Universities for Nottingham partnership. The programme aims to bring together researchers, community-focused organisations and local citizens to deliver meaningful change for the people of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. All our studentships have been developed through collaborations between academics and local, community-focused organisations to shape the research projects around the priorities of local communities.

Who are we looking for??

Co(l)laboratory aims to bridge the gap between academia and communities through a holistic programme of co-created research that actively engages with public groups. As we work to build a different way of doing PhD research, we need candidates who are socially conscious and invested in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire communities to join us. If you are an inspired individual with practical experience and a passion for creating positive change, Co(l)laboratory can help you elevate your knowledge and skills and make a lasting impact.

Entry qualifications

These PhDs are targeted towards students from non-traditional backgrounds and applicants do not necessarily need a first or 2.1 degree. Applications are open to local citizens, employees and practitioners.

How to apply

Applications to all Co(l)laboratory 2023 PhD studentships must be submitted through through our online applications portal HERE. This also applies to Co(l)laboratory studentships which are hosted at the University of Nottingham. Applications open at 12pm on Thursday 22nd December 2023 and close at 12pm on Monday 6th February 2023.

Fees and funding

This is a funded PhD project for UK applicants.

Guidance and support

For more information on Co(l)laboratory PhD studentships, contact Alex Nkrumah at

Still need help?

Alex Nkrumah