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Exploring consent in sport – A new agenda for research on health, wellbeing and gender S&T20

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: S&T20

The giving and receiving of consent is a central feature of healthy, enjoyable and equitable sport (Channon and Matthews, 2021). Recent scandals in gymnastics, athletics and swimming point to the damaging consequences arising when athletes’ consent is compromised, misunderstood, or simply absent, thus creating space for abuse. Yet despite its importance, consent is an under-researched and under-theorised topic which represents an important area for the development of impactful research (Channon and Matthews, 2021). The successful candidate will employ the immersive research methods recently outlined by Matthews (2021) to develop a rich understanding of how consent is worked out, (mis)communicated, and/or withdrawn in sport settings.

This work will be set against the background of serious health issues embedded in various sports worlds (AlHashmi and Matthews, 2021a; Matthews and Channon, 2017; Matthews and Jordan, 2020; Matthews, 2020) and problematic medical advice and support which is provided to athletes (AlHashmi and Matthews, 2021b; Channon, Matthews, and Hillier, 2020, 2021). Such issues complicate the process of consenting due to the potential for serious and lasting detrimental effects on physical and mental health. Furthermore, the clear prescience of gender to issues of consent means this project will also draw together the work of NTU colleagues Bowes and Matthews on gender inequality in sport (Bowes and Culvin, 2021, Channon and Matthews, 2015, Matthews, 2016; Matthews and Channon, 2019). Given these details the following research questions will be explored:

  • How do athletes understand, construct, and communicate consent to take part within high-performance training and competition contexts?
  • How well informed are athletes about the nature of sporting risks when giving consent in these ways?
  • How are such consent practices – or lack thereof – generally implicated in athletes’ health and wellbeing?
  • And how do individual and group characteristics – such as gender, age, ethnicity, disability, and so on – impact upon these processes?

The work of Channon and Matthews (2021) is the first substantive contribution to exploring consent in sport, as such, it sets an agenda for future work and establishes the topic as an important focus for the social cultural exploration of sport, physical cultures, and health promotion. It is expected that findings from this work will enhance our understanding of athlete welfare and wellbeing, maintaining participation in sport and help develop means of empowering athletes to take more control over their sporting lives. There is a clear opportunity for rich, novel and impactful evidence to be produced from this project. The proposed supervisory teams connections to national governing bodies and sporting organisations means that there is a clear avenue for those findings to produce tangible strategies for the development of policy and good practice.

The supervisory team will consist of Director of Studies Christopher Matthews and co-supervisors Ali Bowers, Alex Channon (University of Brighton) and Belinda Winder.

School strategic research priority

The project aligns with the SHAPE research centre. Furthermore, the relation to health, wellbeing and gender also situates this work firmly within the Exercise and Health research group

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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