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Our impact

We are driven to produce academic research that is impactful for the sport industry. Our links to the sport industry ensure that our academic research is policy-relevant and is both informed by and has relevance for organisational practice.

Our intimate knowledge and understanding of current challenges and issues that the sport industry faces allow us to develop practical recommendations that are relevant for the industry. Colleagues in the Centre also work with various sports organisations, providing consultancy, advice and insight to help address ongoing challenges and issues.

Impact Projects

Diversity in Sports Leadership

  • From 2019 to 2021 Geoff Walters and Richard Tacon were part of a major £450,000 project to increase diversity in sport governance.
  • Commissioned by Sport England and UK Sport, and led by Perrett Laver, the project aimed to identify candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic, disabled and LGBT+ backgrounds and offer training and development, in order that they might be better prepared to find positions on boards of sport organisations.
  • We were responsible for designing and developing four online modules for the chosen candidates to introduce them to governance in the UK sport sector and to the role of the board. We also ran three online research-led seminars to a range of candidates.
  • Although the objective of the project was limited to identifying and enabling a pool of diverse ‘board-ready’ candidates, by July 2021, 38 candidates had already been appointed to boards in the sport sector, including to Active Partnerships, national governing bodies and other national sport organisations.

Financial Regulation in English Football

  • The Birkbeck Sport Business Centre has a long record of impactful research on financial regulation in football, dating back to our State of the Game project (2001-2006): a comprehensive annual report, based on a quantitative survey of all professional football clubs in England and Scotland.
  • As well as conducting academic research into financial regulation in football, we have contributed written and oral evidence to various UK parliamentary inquiries between 2008 and 2020 on 'English Football and its Governance', 'Football Governance' and 'Sport in our Communities'.
  • We continue to foster debate on these important issues, with a series of public seminars, for example on Major League Soccer, football contracts and transfers and the history of women's football.

Board Governance Across English Sport

  • Since 2011, a programme of research led by Richard Tacon and Geoff Walters has worked to understand and improve board-level governance in sport organisations throughout the UK.
  • Through sector-wide reports, in-depth case studies, workshops and training, we have contributed to policy development and evaluation, fostered public debate around these issues and helped individual organisations with their governance.
  • In 2011, we published the first independent UK survey into board-level governance at national governing bodies of sport and then contributed as part of a working group, led by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, which developed the Voluntary Code of Good Governance for the Sport and Recreation Sector.
  • In 2014, we were commissioned to evaluate the impact of the code on sport organisations. We found that more than 80 organisations had signed up to the Code at that point and explored how these organisations had heard about the Code, how far they had implemented it, what challenges they had faced, and how they felt it could be improved.
  • In 2018, working with commercial partner, Moore Stephens, we published a subsequent survey, The State of Sports Governance, based on an in-depth survey of sport organisations.
  • Throughout this period, from 2011 right up to the present day, we have worked closely with relevant organisations, including Sport England, UK Sport and the Sport and Recreation Alliance, while maintaining our academic independence, in order to offer impartial advice on improving governance in the sector.

Fighting Match-Fixing in English Football

  • As a result of Birkbeck's strong research reputation in the area of sport governance and its relationships with professional footballing bodies, Sean Hamil and Dr. Andy Harvey were approached by the European Division of the world football players' union, FIFPro, to conduct research into match-fixing in European professional football.
  • The research project produced as its key outputs: a good practice guide, which FIFPro later disseminated to its member unions and in particular to football players' unions in Greece, Slovenia, Romania, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Scotland and England, and a code of conduct, 'Protect Our Game', to which all major European footballing stakeholders subscribed.
  • The wider and longer-term impact of this work has been felt on the national level, as local footballing unions have been given a stronger voice in matters of governance, and in ongoing projects seeking to counter sport's corruption, not only within football but beyond.

REF2021 Impact Cases

REF2014 Impact Case

Responses to Government Inquiries

Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee into Football Governance (2011)

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee into Sport in our Communities (2020)