Sport and Physical Activity Research Centre (SPARC)

Theme Icon for Communities, Culture & ConflictsTheme Icon for Health, Wellbeing & SocietyTheme Icon for Leisure, Recreation & Tourism

SPARC at BU is home to a breadth of exciting, innovative and inter-disciplinary scholarship that aims to offer a truly holistic understanding of the derivation, constitution, and experience of sport, physical activity, the body, well-being & (ill-)health. Through asking important questions and setting important agendas for policy, practice, performance and society, we have developed a research portfolio that is of the highest academic standard and has real world application. Funders include the ESRC, the AHRC, NIHR, the IOC, AFC Bournemouth, UEFA, and Active Dorset.

Building on external links with private and public partners, and other bodies concerned with sport and physical activity, SPARC fosters an agenda, often achieved through creative methodologies, to produce research that is meaningful in that speaks to broader social, economic and sporting challenges and to a broader set of constituents / communities (from the most local to the global).

Combining scholars from a range of academic disciplines within the study of sport and physical activity, from across the University, and from established national and international Universities, SPARC is ideally suited to develop and advance knowledge that can contribute towards policy in sport, physical activity, health and well-being; enhance sporting performance and the role of participation in sport and physical activity in healthy lifestyles across the lifespan; impact practice in public/private organisations; engage the public through a variety of activities; and, contribute towards progressive societal change.

SPARC provides a dynamic, exciting and stimulating environment for a range of activities, including high-quality research outputs, research bidding related to our aims, events including hosting conferences and a seminar series to encourage debate and discussion, for international research networking and collaboration, for the on-going development of graduate students, and for funded research projects. We welcome PhD applications in related areas, and can advise on funding opportunities.

Research Themes

Fostering an interdisciplinary agenda and innovative and creative methodologies that address both sporting and social concerns, there are two overlapping strands to our research:

Sport, Health & Sustainability

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Within this theme, we are focused on issues related to sport, physical activity, health, wellbeing, embodiment across the lifespan and social and cultural sustainability. We work across the population spectrum, undertaking research on physical activity and embodiment with young people, mental health, clinical populations and chronic disease, people with disabilities, disadvantaged communities, and, athletes.

Our researchers have established expertise in understanding how sport and physical activity (across a multitude of experiences ranging from a mega-event to informal leisure) can serve to develop inclusive communities, empower citizens, and contribute towards progressive societal change and improve wellbeing. Conversely, through identifying when sport and physical activity act to reinforce existing power imbalances and further social exclusion and health inequalities, we work collaboratively to impact upon a social justice/equality agenda and improve health/wellbeing outcomes.

We aim to conduct research that provides critical insights into the development of organisational and management practices and that enhance opportunities for people and communities to participate in sport and physical activity. We also have expertise in the role of digital culture and (social) media representations on understandings of the (in)active body, healthy ageing, body image, (mental and physical) wellbeing, and healthy lifestyles.

Working with a number of public, private and non-profit partners, our work focuses on the role of sport in health and social and economic sustainability. Recent projects for example, have focussed on (international) development initiatives, the governance and management of sport organisations (e.g. marketing, corporate social responsibility), the consumption of sport (e.g. fandom, fan identities), the mediation of Parasport, sex work at mega-events, mental health interventions in primary schools ,and, the influence of sporting events on the lives of citizens and communities (e.g. gentrification, tourism, social inclusion, surveillance). We work with governing bodies (e.g. Paralympics GB, UEFA, the Bundesliga, the Premier League, the Chinese FA) and government (e.g. All Party Parliamentary Committees, DCMS, international municipal tourism and leisure authorities), and the media to influence policy/practice and provide a robust evidence base for policy development.


Sport, Health & Exercise Sciences

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Within this theme, we are focused on understanding the role of various aspects of genetics, physiology, biomechanics, performance analysis, and psychology in physical and mental health, athletic performance, and development. With relevance for medical science, assistive technology, and animation, visualisation and simulation, our work addresses best practice in talent identification and development in sport, load monitoring and injury in sport, athlete wellbeing and safeguarding needs, the physiology of heat and altitude acclimation and exposure, eye tracking and movement analysis, the influence of technology adaptation on performance of both able-bodied and disabled athletes, and social psychological influences on both athletic performance/development and the promotion and maintenance of exercise for health and rehabilitation.

Working alongside partners from various disciplines (computing and informatics, computer animation and visualisation, psychology, medicine, orthopaedics, health), both within BU and with other UK and world-leading international institutions, we are at the heart of emerging impactful research funded from and co-created with with various external organisations such as: the Economic and Social Research Council, the National Institute of Health Research, the International Olympic Committee, UK Sport, the England and Wales Cricket Board, England Rugby, England Beach Soccer, the Chinese Football Association, as well as locally with AFC Bournemouth, Active Dorset, and Poole Older People’s steering group.

We are driven by an aspiration to conduct world-leading research with real-world application, helping to achieve impact and change across the organisations with which we work. The research produced by our group has been used in strategic planning by UK Sport for the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Games, as well as in reshaping UK Sport’s talent development pathways. The research has led to change in the working practices of 1000s of coaches and athletes across more than 20 sports, and fundamentally shifted wider understanding of elite athletic performance, reaching over 160,000 people. Our research has been communicated to the very highest level within a number of sports, via Senior Management Groups, Performance Directors, and practitioners (coaches, psychologists, physiologists, performance analysts). Meanwhile, public engagement work has allowed our research to reach a wider audience beyond academia and elite sport, including coverage in print and online media, as well as coverage via BBC Radio and US Public Radio.

Other recent projects include: Coach, athlete, and relational influences on development athletes’ attitudes, intentions, and willingness to dope; the role of sport psychology in elite academy football; player load and performance and injury outcomes in elite football; evaluation of the Active Ageing project; movement, physical activity, mental health, and wellbeing in primary schools; and a cycling and educational programme with usual physiotherapy care in the treatment of hip osteoarthritis.

Funded Research Portfolio

Bailey, R., (Historic Environment Scotland), Manley (Bath), Silk (Bournemouth) & Wang (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, People’s Republic of China). Producing/Consuming ‘Romantic Scotland’: Exhibitions, Heritage, Nation & the Chinese Market. AHRC (AH/P009808/1)

Freeman, P. (Essex) & Rees, T. Coach, Athlete, and Relational Influences on Development Athletes’ Attitudes, Intentions, and Willingness to Dope. IOC 2016 Olympic Research Programme.

Saqib, N (Qatar University). Filo, K (Griffith University). Geurin, A (Griffith University), Kennelly, M (Griffith University). Lock, D (Bournemouth University). Theodorakis, N (Qatar University). & Soba, R (Qatar University). A Comparison of Sport Event Participation Outcomes across Qatar and Australia. Funded by the Qatar National Research Foundation (NPRP9-172-5-021).

Silk, M., Hubbard, P. (Kent) Fusco, C. (Toronto), Blanchette, T. (UFRDJ, Brazil) and Almeida, (UFPR, Brazil). Sex work in the context of sports mega events: Examining the impacts of Rio 2016. ESRC (ES/N018656/1).

Silk (Bournemouth), CoI’s: Hodges (Bournemouth), Scullion (Bournemouth), Jackson (Bournemouth), Stutterheim (Bournemouth), Rich (Bath) Howe (Loughborough), Silva (Nottingham) & Misener (Western Ontario). Re-presenting para-sport bodies: Disability & the cultural legacy of the Paralympics. AHRC (AH/P003842/1).

Research Seminar Series: Wednesday 24th April

Dr. Nicola De Martini Ugolotti and Dr. Craig Owen. The uses of qualitative visual methods in research on the active body/physical activity.


Time: 10am-11.30am


Previous Seminars:

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Professor Barrie Houlihan (loughborough University). Assessing the effectiveness of the World Anti-Doping Agency
Daniel Read (Loughborough London). Exploring the legitimacy of the World Anti-Doping Agency: A multi-level perspective
Professor James Skinner (Loughborough London). Doping in young athletes: Incidence and antecedents


Physical (In)Activity, Exercise & Clinical Contexts, 20 April 2016

Physical Activity, (Digitised) Youth & Innovative Methodologies, 18 May 2016 PG146

Healthified Urban Spaces, Governance & Gentrification, 22 June 2016 


Summer pop-up: 

Gender & social media: Sport, health & (athlete) well-being?

An informal roundtable discussion with Dr Jaquelyn Osborne (Charles Sturt University, Australia), Dr Chelsea Litchfield (Charles Sturt University, Australia) & Dr Emma Kavanagh (BU SPARC)


Summer pop-up: 

The academic impact of ‘Sport Management’ on cognate disciplines: Professor Heath McDonald (Faculty of Business & Law, Swinburne University, Australia)


Pop-up Seminar: 
Contemporary Issues in Sport Development: Perspectives from Brazilian Gymnastics
Dr Laurita Schiavon, University of Campinas, Brazil
Leticia Queiroz, University of Campinas, Brazil
Pop-up Seminar: 
Sport in the South African Context
Dr Sharheed Talip – “Unpacking the transformation issues in cricket in South Africa”
Dr Brendon Knott – “Place branding through sport”
Seminar Series: 
Refugees, Migrants and Contemporary Struggles for Social Equity: A Role for Sport, Leisure & Physical Activity?
Dr Mark Doidge (University of Brighton). A journey from activism to research on refugees and sport: ethical, theoretical and methodological considerations’?
Dr Nicola De Martini Ugolotti (Bournemouth University): Climbing Walls, Making Bridges: capoeira, parkour, and (post)migrant youth’s negotiating self, place and belonging in Turin

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SPARC Members


Associate Members:



Post-Doctoral Research Fellows


Affiliated External Members:



Current Research Students:

Darren Britton

Jordan Cotton

Janine Davis

Emma Mosley

John Onwe

Shannon Peppin

Sam Prince

Joe Rutter

Mark Stevens

Chloe Tape

Matthew Wylde

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