Recent Research in Sport Volunteers


Geoff Nicols

By Geoff Nichols
University of Sheffield

In January I completed a review of the motivations of sports volunteers, commissioned by Sport England.  This is available on Sport England’s web site at:  Nichols, G., Hogg, E., Knight, C., Mirfin-Boukouris, H., Storr, R. and Uri, C. (2016) Understanding motivations of Sport Volunteers in England: a review for Sport England

I expect this to inform Sport England’s volunteer strategy which is being developed at the moment.

The review would be helpful for any dissertation of PhD students in this area, as it is structured by different groups of sports volunteers; including: mega event volunteers, local event volunteers, club volunteers, young people, etc.   It concludes with ideas for further research.

I am the English partner in an Erasmus project comparing the role of sports clubs in promoting volunteering and social inclusion across ten countries.  This runs from 2015 to 2017.  I have been responsible for the first part of the project, comparing sport policies across the ten countries.  The project has a specific objective of producing a handbook to support good practice in promoting volunteering and social inclusion through sport. It will include a set of 5 or 6 dissemination events in England in autumn 2017.  I’ll aim to promote one through the LSA.   The project has been a good opportunity to work with European colleagues who normally publish in their own language.  More information on this project is available at:

This has built on a book comparing sports clubs across Europe: van der Werff et al. eds. (2015) Sport clubs in Europe. Mulier Institute.       This includes a chapter on England:  Nichols, G. and Taylor, P. (2015) Sport Clubs in England.  141-167.

This would be a useful resource for courses on sport policy.

Olympic research 

Two papers have recently been published on work around the 2012 Olympic Games – at last:

Nichols, G., Grix, J., Ferguson, G. and Griffiths, M. (2016) How sport governance impacted on Olympic legacy: a study of unintended consequences and the ‘Sport Makers’ volunteering programme.  Managing Sport and Leisure. 

Nichols, G. and Ralston, R. (2016) Talking ‘bout my generation: Generational differences in the attitudes of volunteers at the 2012 Olympic Games.  Voluntary Sector Review. 7 (2) 127 – 148. 

Asset transfer of leisure facilities

With colleagues at Northumbria University and University of Newcastle, we are continuing work on the ‘asset transfer’ of public leisure facilities to small volunteer led groups.  ‘Asset transfer’ could be described as part of a neo-liberalist hegemonic justification of a reduction in the public sector; or an expansion of local citizenship: in academic terms; progressive or austerity localism.   We have one published output from this so far:

Nichols, G., Forbes, D., Findlay-King, L. and MacFadyen, G. (2015) Is the Asset Transfer of Public Leisure Facilities in England an Example of Associative Democracy?  Administrative Sciences.  5(2), 71-87

A report of our initial work on asset transfer, and selected case studies, is on the CIMSPA web site at:–research-hub/

This work is also available on the web site of the Sports Volunteering Research Network – under ‘research reports’.

Very happy to correspond with anybody over the work above.  Bear in mind I work 50%, mainly in the winter!

Geoff Nichols:

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