PhD Opportunity in Sport, Migration and Identity | Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute, Ulster University


Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute, Ulster University


Background to the project

Research into transnational sports labour migration (SLM) has increased significantly since the 1990s. This work has been dominated by a macro-level approach and it is recognised that more detailed research is required into the specific circumstances shaping transnational sports labour migration, in particular, the experiences of male and female athletes who ply, or aspire to ply, their trade ‘abroad’, how their pursuit and/or acquisition of mobility impacts on their individual and social identities and vice versa. In this regard, greater attention is also required to consider host countries’ status in the global/transnational division of sports labour, especially how particular local contexts have an influence on identities, on migratory aspirations and subsequent experiences of migration.

Methods to be used: The strengths and interests of the particular doctoral candidate will inform the final decision on research design once final research objectives are agreed. It is envisaged that the research methods will be chosen for their relevance to the project and no method will be given any primacy per se over the objectives of the research. Detailed aspects of the methodology and analysis will be refined by the candidate throughout the project. Applicants should, in consultation with the supervisory team, propose a research design that enables them to explore the experiences of sports labour migrants and the links to identity, conceptualised in any number of ways appropriate to the chosen population e.g. national identity, gendered, ethnic or racialized identities and so on.

Objectives of the research

The following are the general objectives of the proposed project:

  • To explore sports labour migration within one or a range of sports across one or more geopolitical spaces;
  • To understand and explain these patterns of movement i.e. how and why they havedeveloped in this manner, and how the process is contoured and shaped;
  • To examine the impact of this migration on the athletes concerned in terms of mobility/immobility, sports performance, adjustment, acculturation before, during and after migration;
  • To analyse the nature of the relationship between individual/social identities and migration, including aspirations for mobility; and,
  • To offer a greater insight into the consequences of these identity and migratory processes for ‘donors’, both in terms of sport policy but also domestic/foreign policies more broadly.

Skills required of applicant: Key skills would include: a demonstrable specialism in social science, sociology and/or the humanities or a related area; academic performance in these areas; and, evidence of the ability to undertake independent research. Supplementary skills might include: professional or vocational experience of sport and/or labour migration.

Guiding References

Agergaard, S and Tiesler, N.C. (2014) Women, Soccer and Transnational Migration. London: Routledge.
Besnier, N. (2015) “Sports Mobilities Across Borders: Postcolonial Perspectives”, The International Journal of the History of Sport. 32 (7): 849-861.
Brown, G. and Potrac, P. (2009) “You’ve not made the grade son: de-selection and identity disruption in elite level youth football”, Soccer and Society. 10 (2): 143-159.
Carter, T. (2011) “Re-placing sport migrants: Moving beyond the institutional structures informing international sport migration”, International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 48 (1); 66-82.
Darby, P. (2007) “Out of Africa: The exodus of elite African football talent to Europe”, Journal of Labour and Society. 10: 443-456.
Engh, M. and Agergaard, S. (2015) “Producing mobility through locality and visibility: developing a transnational perspective on sports labour migration”, International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 50 (8): 974-992.
Liston, K. and Booth, S. (2014) “The Continental Drift to a Zone of Prestige: women’s soccer migration to the US NCAA Division 1 2000-2010”, in Agergaard, S. and Tiesler, N.C. (eds.) Women, Soccer and Transnational Migration. London: Routledge, pp. 53-72.
Maguire, J. (2013) “Globalisation, Sport and National Identities: ‘The Empires Strick Back’? Loisir et Societe. 16 (2): 293-321.
Maguire, J. and Falcous, M. (2011) Sport and Migration: Border, Boundaries and Crossings. London: Routledge.


If you are interested in this project area, it is strongly recommended that you contact one of the supervisors to discuss your ideas. While the proposed project is wide in scope, this is deliberately so to permit applicants the opportunity to tailor this outline to their research interests and to develop more refined research ideas. A more refined research proposal will then be submitted by applicants with the online application.

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