Sport and Social Inclusion Research Group

Sport and physical activity have significant potential to address social inequalities, and create fair and equitable opportunities for everyone to participate in society. In so doing, sports can promote inclusiveness, challenge stereotypes, and in keeping with the University’s Strategic Plan, transform lives.

The Sport and Social Inclusion Research Group (SSIRG) provides a research-led approach to social inclusion in and through sport, making knowledge accessible to inform policy and practice.

What we provide

  • Support for Early Career Researchers and doctoral candidates
  • Global networks for collaboration and research mentoring
  • Development opportunities to facilitate impactful research
  • Accessible resources to stay up to date
  • Developing and sharing knowledge to inform policy and practice

Case studies


Disability Sport Information


Constraints to providing sports participation opportunities for disabled people can sometimes be the result of a lack of awareness and understanding of disability and what exists (Brown & Pappous, 2018). This project aims to help address some of this by providing an open and publicly available educational tool on disability sport.

What has been done

Disability Sport Info is a public engagement initiative to communicate academic insights on disability sport to the wider public. The podcast, Disability Sport Info, was placed 3rd in the Best Equality and Social Impact category in the Sports Podcast Awards 2023, and features episodes on the Paralympic Games, grassroots sport, high-performance sport, and sport spectatorship.

Disability Sport Information image

Find out more


Gender Equity and Sport


Members of the SSIRG group are actively involved in research related to gender equity in sport as (1) the Research Lead for the International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG); (2) gender equity in sports leadership, including the management of the Women in Sport High Performance Pathway (WISH); (3) gender in sports diplomacy.

Gender in sports diplomacy: What has been done

Members of the team have published an integrated literature review to understand what sports diplomacy academic research has been published; explored a comparative case study of the UK and Australian sports diplomacy activities to better understand the operationalised nature of sports diplomacy; and examined how the intersectionality of gender influences sports diplomacy work.

Gender Equity and Sport image

What has the research found?

There is currently no universal definition of what sports diplomacy is, with a dominance of research from higher income countries. We recommend that organisations wishing to undertake sports diplomacy activities shape their own definition of what sports diplomacy means to them, clearly define the proposed outcomes of that strategy and activities, and have a sports diplomacy strategy with a bottom up programme development approach.

Find out more

Contact: Dr Claire Jenkin


Physical Activity for Older Adults Living with Dementia


Physical activity can improve the wellbeing of people affected by dementia and their family carers. Activities may also help people living with dementia to feel connected with their local community. The current project examined the provision of physical activities by Dementia Friendly Communities in England for older adults living with dementia and the strategies used to engage this population in the planning and running of activities.

What has been done

A mix of research methods were used including: a survey completed by the leads of Dementia Friendly Communities, detailed case studies of three Dementia Friendly Communities with different experiences of providing physical activity, interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders and documentary analysis. All stages of the project involved ‘experts by experience’ from Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) groups.

Physical Activity for Older Adults Living with Dementia image

What has the research found

Physical activity had a broad definition (movement and household tasks) and activities needed to be adaptable and flexible (along the dementia journey). Following diagnosis, it was often difficult to access information about Dementia Friendly Activities. In addition to the “physical” activity, people appreciated the social side. People needed physical activities to be local and dementia inclusive.

Local Authorities are key in coordinating information, resources and signposting. More information needs to be provided at time of diagnosis. Service providers requested more dementia training and needed to undertake more evaluation of their services. It is vital people living with dementia are involved in shaping and evaluating services.

Research Summary 

Find out more

  • A resource was created with people living with dementia and Stevenage Borough Council to let people know what is offered in their local area. It is listed on the Borough Council website and is also available in print form in several locations in Stevenage.
  • Public Involvement: We have worked with the Stevenage Dementia Involvement Group on how to design our study, share our findings and get feedback on different stages of the research.
  • Public Involvement Blog.
  • Three Stakeholder meetings for service providers were held in 2023 which have refined the Policy Briefings (not finalised yet).
  • Please contact: Elspeth for further information or read this project summary.
  • Elspeth Mathie is a Reader in Health and Social Care Inclusion in the Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care (CRIPACC), School of Health and Social Work. She also has a co-lead role in the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC), East of England in the Inclusive Involvement in Research theme. Her research focus is older people, care homes and dementia. She has over 30 publications, including research into Public Involvement and was part of the National Evaluation of Patient and Public Involvement.