LJMU network for women in football

New women football network banner

Liverpool John Moores University is establishing a brand new network to connect and provide greater opportunities for women in football.

The ‘Football Exchange Women’s Network’ is part of LJMU’s Football Exchange (FEx) and will be overseen by Dr Francesca Champ, newly-appointed to the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

The network aims to connect women working in football by offering opportunities for curriculum placements, peer support, networking, guest speaker/lectures, and the potential for research collaboration. Core membership is open to LJMU staff, students and alumni who are currently working in the football industry.

Francesca has taken up post as a lecturer/senior lecturer in Psychology of Football and will teach on LJMU’s BSc (Hons) Science and Football programme.

She brings a wealth of experience working with male professional footballers. In recent months, Francesca has worked together with Professor Zoe Knowles and Dr Martin Littlewood to formalise LJMU’s current sport psychology provision at Liverpool Football Club Women’s to include the senior squad. As first team performance psychologist Francesca delivers a programme of support for players (and staff), and coordinates a network of LJMU students in situ currently with LFCW.

Francesca, a BASES accredited Sport and Exercise Scientist, said: “It is our ambition within the Football Exchange to ensure that the development of world-leading women practitioners remains our prominent focus for years to come. Therefore, I am very proud to be the founder and ambassador of the Football Exchange Women’s Network on behalf of the FEx.

“I hope that the network will offer opportunities for members to develop their knowledge and understanding, engage in peer support, contribute to networking and social events, and get involved in collaborative research and funding projects. This is just the beginning of our journey as a collective and I am excited to see what the future holds.”

Dr Martin Littlewood, Head of the Football Exchange, commented: “It is essential that women have role models, like Francesca, that they can relate to and help to sustain motivation and belief that a career in the football industry is achievable for everyone.

“We have a sandwich year embedded into the science and football programme that allows our students to experience and develop key competencies and employability skills within an applied environment. Francesca’s role within the programme will enhance the quality of the student experience based upon her own applied journey within the football environment.

“This project forms part of an ongoing FEx strategy to showcase and connect our alumni that have progressed into the football industry.  We marked this in our inaugural ‘Football Exchange Psychology of Football Conference in 2019’, which we will be hosting again in 2021 and are excited that ‘The Football Exchange Women’s Network’ will feature a keynote presentation and a symposium event."

If you are currently working in a sports science role and want to join a growing network of passionate women practitioners, register your interest now.


LJMU was the first institution in the World to offer a BSc Sports Science degree, and in 1998 added the world’s first BSc Science and Football degree to its list of degree programmes. Liverpool is one of the world’s most famous footballing cities. In June 2020, Liverpool Football Club were crowned Premiership champions for the first time in history, Liverpool Women’s FC remain just one of two women’s teams to have won back-to-back titles, and Liverpool FC (Anfield) are key members of the Healthy Stadia programme to promote the health and wellbeing of its visitors, fans, employees and surrounding community.

Football is an area in which women have been historically underrepresented. We are proud that there is a growing network of women staff, students and alumni from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences that are making a world leading difference within the football sector. For over 20 years, LJMU has led the way in fostering a scientific approach towards the training, preparation and development of players, coaches and teams within elite level professional football. Our world leading scientific enquiry places the Football Exchange (FEx) as the foremost organisation to support the football industry through world-class research, high quality education and applied enterprise solutions. The FEx proudly works with clients from National clubs and International governing bodies, to commercial enterprises and local community schemes.

At LJMU, we offer students the opportunity to study from Level 3 (Foundation) through to Level 8 (PhD, DProf). We support many of our students all of the way through to professional accreditation, for example with British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Health and Care Professions Council, Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register and United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association.

You can find more information on undergraduate and postgraduate courses available in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Award-winning team

The work of our world-leading women has been recognised on a national and international stage, with several of our football practitioners and researchers attaining prestigious awards.

Dr Francesca Champ- Lecturer in Psychology of Football. Francesca has attained a number of research awards, including the Aspetar Excellence in Football Research Award at the 2016 European Congress of Sports Science in Vienna, the Human Kinetics Best Student Free Communication Presentation Award at the BASES annual conference, and the Routledge Early Career Researcher Award at The Football Collective.

Dr Sigrid Olthof- Lecturer in Performance Analysis. In 2017, Sigrid was awarded the Young Investigator Award at the World Congress of Science and Soccer for her presentation on ‘The effect of match-derived relative pitch area in 5-a-side games on team tactical performance in under-19 talented soccer players’.

Dr Gillian Cook- Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology. In 2018, Gill was awarded the World-wide Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) Student Award for Excellence in Science Practitioner Endeavours.

Dr Lisa O’Halloran- Sport psychologist at Coventry City FC. Lisa has enjoyed a hugely successful 2019-20 season, she was one of the inaugural candidates to complete BASES SEPAR route to HCPC in 2020.

Dr Kelly Hammond- Nutritionist at Southampton FC. Kelly was awarded the Gatorade Sports Science Institute Nutrition Award at the 2016 European Congress of Sports Science for her research on post exercise high-fat feeding.

LJMU currently has over 20 women (staff, students and alumni) working at more than 20 professional football clubs/organisations worldwide within sports science roles. This reach extends across men’s and women’s football and at both youth and senior levels.

By collaborating with ‘The Football Exchange Women’s Network’ you will benefit from direct access to the knowledge and expertise of world-leading women practitioners in football.



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