C06 Successful sport psychology within 1st team football: Perceptions of senior strategic stakeholders at elite football clubs


  • George Perry Liverpool John Moores University
  • Martin Littlewood Liverpool John Moores University




This study focussed on the perceptions of senior strategic stakeholders (e.g, sporting director, head of performance, manager, coach) working within 1st team football at elite professional clubs (English Premier League & Championship). Although recent research has made progress within the practitioner professional development literature it has, so far, failed to gain an explicit understanding of the perceptions around ‘successful sport psychology’ or what makes a sport psychologist successful - in their respective sporting environments. Therefore, the main purpose of this research was to gain an explicit insight into what senior strategic stakeholders perceived makes a sport psychologist successful within their role at an elite football club, at 1st team level. Following institutional ethical approval, purposeful sampling was used and semi-structured interviews were conducted with five senior strategic stakeholders. Following data collection, a thematic analysis was conducted and 19 general dimensions were arranged across three phases: (a) knowledge and experiences of sport psychology in elite football, (b) explicit understanding of sport psychology success in elite football and (c) perceived barriers and challenges to sport psychology in an elite football club. In particular, senior strategic stakeholders’ explicit understanding of sport psychology success in elite football included 7 general dimensions: (1) importance of role clarity during induction into new role, (2) success viewed as subjective due to difficulty quantifying influence of work, (3) success perceived as best judged by individuals worked with most closely, (4) preference for club appointed full time sport psychologist, (5) implementation of balanced approach perceived as successful, (6) implementation of forceful approach perceived as unsuccessful and (7) success attributed to positive influence on culture and player performances. Thus, it’s recommended that sport psychologists aspiring to work in applied football contexts should consider the findings of this research to positively influence their entry and/or practice in an elite football environment, at 1st team level. Similarly, it’s equally recommended that senior strategic stakeholders within elite football clubs use these findings to help develop their knowledge and understanding of sport psychology so they’re better informed and aware of the perceived key attributes of successful sport psychology provision within 1st team football. Consequently, this may assist with navigating the diversity of challenges perceived to be associated to the presence of a sport psychologist, within an elite 1st team football environment, and therefore increase and improve utilisation of sport psychology services across players, coaches, and wider footballing staff.