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. Current funders include the ESRC, the AHRC, the IOC, and UEFA.

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 it can speak 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 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 three overlapping strands to our research:

Sport, Health & the Body

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Within this theme, we are focused on issues related to sport, physical activity, health, wellbeing and embodiment across the lifespan, especially as they relate to urban, social and health-based inequalities. 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 are also interested 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.

Behavioural, Applied & Coaching Sciences

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Our research under this theme builds on established depth and international reputation in understanding the role of exercise and sport participation in developing behavioural change across the lifespan, enhancing performance and lifelong wellbeing.

Our research addresses issues related to social support, social identity, stereotype threat in (elite) sports performance, best practice in talent identification and development, performance assessment, heat acclimation and exposure, and the influence of technology and human enhancement / modification on a range of athletes/athletes with disabilities. We are also focused on lifestyle management and athlete wellbeing, especially with respect to safeguarding athletes (in both virtual and face-to-face environments), adolescent health, the management of multiple sporting/everyday identities and roles, the impact of illness and injuries, and by working with professional organizations related to athlete/human rights.

Policy, Management & Development

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Our research in this theme aims to develop new knowledge that can contribute towards policy, organisational practice, and the management and marketing of sport and physical activity. We aim to conduct research that provides critical insights into the development of organisational practices and that enhance opportunities for people and communities to participate in sport and physical activity.

Working with a number of public, private and non-profit partners, our work focuses on the role of sport and physical activity in addressing social/health concerns and participation across the lifespan through, for example, (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), 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 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.

Current 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. (Exeter) & Rees, T. (2016). 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: Coming Soon–Monday 18th June

Workshop Title: Athlete Welfare: Critical Perspectives from Research and Professional Practice. 

The Sport and Physical Activity Research Centre (SPARC) will be hosting a research seminar on Monday 18th June, bringing an exciting group of academics and industry leaders to Bournemouth University. This event will focus on current perspectives concerning athlete welfare, wellbeing and duty of care in organised sport. Please find below speaker names, and an overview of their presentation titles.

Speakers & Presentation Titles:

Dr Daniel Rhind, Reader in Sport, Loughborough University: Introducing the International Safeguards for Children in Sport

Dr Astrid Schubring, Senior Lecturer, University of Gothenburg: Growing up in youth elite sport: Insights and challenges

Ian Braid, CEO DOCIAsport: Reflections on Writing the Duty of Care in Sport Review, DCMS (2017).

Genevive Gordon-Thomson, Sports Lawyer and CEO of Tactic Connect: Duty of Care and Integrity in Sport: The Legal Perspective.

Froukje Smits, Senior Researcher, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences: From gymnasts to kite surfers: the wellbeing of adolescent high-performance athletes in mainstream and action sports.

 Location: F206

Time: 2-5pm


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: Wednesday 24th August, 2016 in F106

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: Monday 5th September, 2016 at 1pm in F106

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

Pop-up Seminar: Wednesday 9th November, 3pm F203
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: Monday 5th December, 1pm F111
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: Wednesday 7th December, 3pm F107
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


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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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