Loughborough University (United Kingdom) 


Borja García-García

Lecturer in sports policy and management
School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences



Dr Borja García is lecturer in sports policy and management in the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Loughborough University. He holds a PhD in Politics, International Relations and European Studies from Loughborough University after completing his thesis entitled ‘The European Union and the Governance of Football: A game of levels and agendas.’ He currently teaches undergraduate and postgraduate modules on Sports Governance, Managing Sports Organisations and Sports Policy Analysis.

As result of his work and accumulatd expertise, Borja has been consulted on issues of European sports governance by Members of the European Parliament, UEFA, as well as the English and Norwegian Football Associations. His scholarly achievement was recognised with the 2010 ‘European Citizen of Honour Award’ awarded by the European think-tank Sport et Citoyenneté for the academic whose work best demonstrated that sport is a factor of reinforcing European citizenship.

Borja is a founding member of the Association for the Study of Sport and the European Union (Sport&EU). He is also member of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES) and the European Union Studies Association (EUSA).

In the FREE project, Borja is in charge of the research strand on ‘Stakeholder empowerment: the perception of transformed governance struc-tures in the football community’, and will organise a conference on the topic in october 2014 in Loughborough.


« What really attracted me to this project was the opportunity to give justice to football, demonstrating once and for all that it is a very serious matter of study, with enormous importance to our society. The possibility to take football research beyond the state of the art and the opportunity to join some of the best scholars on the continent was too attractive to miss. I have been ‘living football’ for most of my life. Even from the very early days, as I was born in a hospital just a couple of hundred meters from the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid. As a player (of modest talent, granted), referee, supporter and even as a reporter, I have been following football. I am now lucky enough to be able to incorporate my passion for the game to my academic interests. »


Brett Smith

Senior Lecturer
School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Dr Brett Smith is senior lecturer in the School of Sport, Exercise & Health Science at Loughborough University, UK. His theoretical and empirical research interests concern the psycho-social dimensions of disability, health, and wellbeing; narrative inquiry; and the development of qualitative research methods and methodologies. Brett leads the Health and Wellbeing strand within the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport at Loughborough. He serves on several editorial boards. Brett is also Editor-in-Chief of the journal Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health.

« As a former (very average, at best) park player, and now as someone who enjoys watching European football, fans have always intrigued me – at the cerebral, sensorial, interactional, and policy levels. What also attracted me to the project – what hailed me – was that for over ten years I have studied disability. What about disabled fans, I wondered. How do they fit into the FREE picture and what can we learn from them? The possibility of re-addressing the balance of attention, of not just understanding able-bodied fans but also disabled fans, called to me. I’m delighted and honoured to be part of the FREE team. »





Jo Welford

Research Associate
School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Jo Welford is a Research Associate at Loughborough University. She completed her undergraduate degree in Sports Science at the university, acquiring an interest in the social aspect of football which was then developed into a PhD. This examined the organisational structure of women’s football in the UK, in particular the role of governing bodies, from the perspective of women involved with the sports at the grassroots level as players, supporters, coaches and club administrators. After her PhD she was involved in a variety of projects focussing on the use of sport to enhance young people’s lives and social inclusion both in the UK and abroad. Jo will be working on the FREE project in the area of governance structures and supporter engagement.

« Football has been in my life for as long as I can remember, as a player, supporter and an academic. I spent the summer of 2012 in Canada and was amazed at how the European Championships encouraged Europeans living in/visiting the country and Canadians with European heritage to unite for a ‘common cause’. Passing through different areas it was hard not to notice the flags of all nations flying proudly in a country not well known for its love of football. It was not difficult to find coverage even in small towns, despite the time difference meaning that all games started in the morning. This underlined to me the power of football and its ability to unite in a fluid global society, and I was strongly attracted to the FREE project’s aims of exploring this, particularly from the point of view of the supporter – an essential but under-studied (and so often overlooked) cog in the football world. »





Loughborough University
United Kingdom



Loughborough was awarded its University Charter in 1966, in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor colleges. Then called Loughborough University of Technology, it was the country’s first technological university. It was renamed Loughborough University in 1996. The quality of the University’s research is confirmed by the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. Every department was found to be undertaking research that is internationally recognised, with ten departments having over 20% of their research judged to be ‘world leading’.