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

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: S&T34

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.

Supervisory Team:

Proposed Director of Studies

Dr Ali Bowes (ECR, T&R) joined NTU in January 2019 and is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Sport. Ali’s research focus is specifically women’s sport and she has published 14 peer-reviewed articles in the area, with 4 articles specifically focusing on women’s football. She is co-editor of the recently published The Professionalisation of Women’s Sport (September 2021), and Women’s Football in a Global Professional Era (March 2023), and on the editorial boards of Sociology of Sport Journal and Managing Sport and Leisure. Ali is working on a £30,000 ESRC-MOST UK-Taiwan Critical Sports Network project as a co-investigator.  Ali is currently supervising 1 part-time PhD student/Academic Associate as DoS and is co-supervisor for 3 students: 1 part-time PhD student/academic associate and a part-time self-funded PhD student at NTU, as well as a student at UCLouvain researching women’s football in Belgium.

Proposed Co-Supervisor

Anika Leslie-Walker (ECR) joined NTU in March 2022 and is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Sport. Anika is completing her PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University, to be submitted in 2023. Anika’s published work focuses on gender and sport, and she is currently working on two projects that position ethnic women as the focal point whilst examining sports governance and spectatorship within women's football. Anika has previous experience working as a qualified coach in the girl's elite academy structure in England. Furthermore, Anika has worked as a women and girls football development officer at the Bedfordshire Football Association. Anika is currently a Non-Executive Director for Manchester Football Association and Chair of their Inclusion Board.

Proposed Co-Supervisor

Dr. Cleveland Barnett is an Associate Professor in Biomechanics at NTU, and a member of the SHAPE research group. He has supervised a number of PhD students to completion, as well as serving on the Sport Science Department’s Equality and Diversity Committee.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

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