Project code



School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science and will be supervised by Dr Tom Webb, Professor Richard Thelwell, Dr Jamie Barker and Dr Carolyn Plateau (Loughborough University).

The work on this project will:

  • Identify key aspects of mental health provision for sports officials and identify gaps in provision
  • Better inform governing bodies of sport and officiating organisations on how to design, provide and deliver effective mental health support for their officials
  • Increase understanding of mental health challenges through a comparative analysis of mental health provision for officials across sports

The environment in which sport is played is important for every participant and should facilitate a positive experience for all stakeholders (players, coaches, spectators, and sports officials). However, we know that within this environment male and female officials are often verbally abused and at times physically abused. This abuse, alongside other contributory factors, has meant that officials have been leaving their chosen sports, creating considerable issues for the scheduling of fixtures, particularly in grassroots sport. These factors mean that the recruitment of sports officials through traditional recruitment methods is becoming increasingly challenging. Therefore, the effective support and development of sport officials is essential, while the mental health of male and female officials, given the abuse and challenging situations in which they can find themselves, becomes even more important to recruit and retain these individuals in their chosen sport.  Presently, little is known about the mental health of sports officials, although we know about some of the challenges that they can face in sporting environments. To illustrate, aside from abuse, research has shown that aspects such as isolation, a lack of effective support, administrative concerns and problems accessing training and development opportunities can also contribute to sports officials discontinuing and potentially negatively affecting acute and long-term mental health. 

The purpose of this PhD project is to develop our understanding around the mental health experiences of female and male sports officials. This will be achieved through a comparative analysis across two sports and a consideration of the shared and individualised challenges that are evident for officials in these sports.

In phase one of the project a systematic review of literature will be undertaken to identify the current extant literature and the gaps in understanding in the subject area. In phase two, the project will progress to the collection of data using questionnaires and interviews/focus groups with sports officials in the two sports to identify the key, themes, barriers, and facilitators to mental health across the two sports. Phase three of the project will progress to an intervention-based approach, where the information, analysis, and understanding arising from phases one and two of the project will be introduced and tested with a targeted officiating group measuring efficacy in a real-world environment. 

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry Requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in sport psychology, psychology and or sport science or a related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to apply

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Sports and Exercise Science PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.