IM Marsh Historical building

Our pioneers

Irene Mabel Marsh started a revolution in physical education and demonstrated that girls should receive instruction in PE. Her legacy lives through the University's innovative teacher training, PE and sport programmes.

Read more about Irene Mabel Marsh.

Professor Tom Reilly was a key member of the team at Liverpool Polytechnic that set up the world’s first BSc (Hons) degree in sports science in 1975. He was also the UK’s first Professor of Sports Science and helped lay the foundations for sport and exercise scientific study at Liverpool Polytechnic before it became known as LJMU. Thanks to Professor Reilly’s vision and dedication, LJMU’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences is now the top ranked institution in the UK for research in sport and exercise sciences*. The state-of-the-art Tom Reilly Building is the hub of the School and contains a range of world leading facilities and equipment for training the next generation of sport and exercise scientists.

Professor Reilly pioneered applied practice in the football world. This early work on notational analysis and work rate profiles has paved the way for generations of sports science graduates to apply their knowledge and expertise in the football industry. Our Science and Football degree programme that was established in 1998 is recognised as an industry leader in producing students for the football sector.

The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) annually offers the Tom Reilly Doctoral Dissertation award. This award was established in 2010 and is named after Professor Reilly who was an Honorary Fellow of BASES. In 2018 Dr Rob Noonan from LJMU was the recipient of this prestigious award. A tribute to Professor Reilly is published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

* Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. Research Quality Index data provided by Research Professional and available via Research Fortnight.

Dr Vaughan Thomas was the lead supervisor of Professor Reilly’s PhD and the pioneer of sport science in the 1970s. Dr Thomas was a physical educator who dreamt of providing the first academic sports course in the UK. Subsequently, he was responsible for the conception and launch of the world’s first Sport Science honours degree at Liverpool Polytechnic in 1975. The fundamental components of the course that he created along with Professor Tom Reilly and Professor Frank Sanderson remain in place today. The School of Sport and Exercise Sciences remains at the forefront of innovation and development in sport and exercise science and we are all truly grateful for Vaughan’s foresight in pursuing the integration of science and sport as a respected, relevant and impactful academic discipline. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.