Professional Football in the UK: The Beautifully Ugly Game

A seminar as part of the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre Public Seminar Series


Given by: Dr Seamus Kelly

The Black Suite
The British Medical Association (BMA) House
Tavistock Square
London WC1H 9JP

Monday 9th November 2015 at 6pm

For directions click here.

Attendance at the event is free but you need to register.


Review of Event

A detailed review of this event can be found at the Birkbeck Events Blog.


The English Premier League, with its increased glamorization, global profile and media obsession has witnessed a new generation of celebrity players who are idealized and viewed as cultural icons and contemporary heroes. The widely held assumption by some football fans and the general public in particular is that these sporting icons travel an inevitable path to fame and glory. However, as this presentation identifies, behind the scenes a different picture exists and the path to becoming a professional soccer player is rarely so uncomplicated. Ethnographic research dispels many of the myths portrayed by the media concerning contemporary professional soccer player’s glamorous and affluent lifestyles where chronic insecurity, loneliness and rejection are prominent characteristics of their daily lives. Moreover, aspects of professional football culture incorporate anti-intellectualism, ruthlessness, laddish banter and hyper masculine workplaces epitomised by authoritarian styles of management and coaching. This seminar examines how young aspirant soccer players are socialised into professional football culture and dressing room culture in particular and highlights the many difficulties they encounter in attempting to realise their dream of playing professional soccer.


Dr. Seamus Kelly is Academic Director of the UCD (University College Dublin) Centre for Sports Studies and College Lecturer in the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science. He has published widely on many aspects of management in professional soccer and player welfare and development. He has conducted independent research with numerous Irish & UK sports organisations and teams and is a member of a number of scientific review panels such as EASM, Journal of Sport Management, European Sport Management Quarterly and Sport in Society. In addition to GAA experience at senior inter-county level with Offaly, Seamus is also a former UCD soccer scholarship recipient with considerable professional (Cardiff City, St. Patrick’s Athletic & Bohemian F.C) and semi-professional (UCD & Longford Town) playing experience. In addition to one Irish ‘B’ cap he was selected for the Irish Universities, Irish Beach Soccer & Irish National League teams.


  • Kelly, S. & Waddington, I. (2006). Abuse, Intimidation and Violence as Aspects of Managerial Control in Professional Soccer in Britain and Ireland. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 41 (2), 147-164.
  • Kelly, S. & Harris, J. (2010). Managers, Directors and Trust in Professional Football. Sport in Society. 13 (3), 489-502.
  • Curran, C. (2014). Professionals on the Move: Irish Born Footballers in Britain, 1945-2010: An Historical and Contemporary Assessment. Unpublished FIFA Havelange Research Scholarship.
  • Kelly, S. (2014). The Migration of Irish Professional Soccer Players. In Harris, J. & Maguire, J. (Eds.). Football and Migration: Perspectives, Places, Players. London: Routledge. .

Contact Details

For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6759


Twitter: @Birkbecksport

Header image courtesy of lawrencehorton under Creative Commons via

View all Events