Dr Geoff Nichols

BA, MSc, MSc, PhD

Management School

Honorary Senior Lecturer

+44 114 222 2184

Full contact details

Dr Geoff Nichols
Management School
Room C097
Sheffield University Management School
Conduit Road
S10 1FL

Geoff completed a BA Joint Honours in Economics/Sociology at the University of Durham.

He completed an MSc in Industrial Relations (by research and dissertation) in 1981 while working with a team at Strathclyde University, researching the impact of productivity bonus schemes.

In 1986, he completed an MSc in Sport and Recreation Management at Loughborough University and in 2004, was awarded a PhD from the University of Sheffield for his thesis, 'The impact of sports programmes on youth crime'. Geoff works at the University of Sheffield from 1990 to 2020, when he retired. He remains an active researcher.


8 years as an outdoor pursuits instructor; both for Outward Bound, and for Tameside Council, where he was a sports development officer

He is a keen mountaineer, rock climber and fell runner and lives in Sheffield. He helps with mountaineering and climbing training for the Scout Association.

Research interests

Geoff's main research interests are volunteers in sports clubs and events; management of sports clubs run by volunteers and the volunteering legacy of sports events.

His research has included the volunteering legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, a national survey of sports clubs in the UK (for the Sport and Recreation Alliance), research into how sports clubs recruit new volunteers (for Sport England) and the experience of volunteers at the 2021 Olympic Games. He has worked on two previous national surveys of sports clubs (both also conducted for Sport England). He produced a review of motivations of sport volunteers for Sport England in 2016. He has researched the community asset transfer of sports facilities and libraries, summarised in a review paper in 2020.

From 2009 to 2019, he chaired the UK Sports Volunteering Research Network. The network promotes research into sports volunteering through arranging network symposia and a newsletter. Network presentations and research resources are available on the Sports Volunteer Research Network website.

Sports Volunteer Research Network

Prior to 2007, Geoff's research focused on the relationship between sport and crime reduction, especially for young people. This was the topic of Geoff's PhD.

Geoff was involved in six major programme evaluations and two national surveys, including a survey for the Home Office, into physically demanding activities for probation service clients (1997/1998).

Much of this work was incorporated into his 2007 book Sport and Crime Reduction: The Role of Sports in Tackling Youth Crime, which was written for policymakers and academics.

Geoff has published over 60 refereed papers on these topics.



  • Nichols GS (2017) Volunteers in Community Sports Associations: a literature review. Brill. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Nichols G (2007) Sport and crime reduction. RIS download Bibtex download

Edited books

  • Nichols G (Ed.) (2013) Volunteers in sport: international perspectives. Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


Book reviews

Conference proceedings papers

  • Nichols GS & Ralston R (2012) Volunteer management at the 2012 Olympic Games: a tension between “programme” and “membership” management styles. Proceedings of the Eleventh International Symposium for Olympic Research (pp 110-115) RIS download Bibtex download


  • Reid F, Findlay-King L, Nichols G & Mills C (2022) Innovation during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Volunteers and Voluntary Sports Organisations in England. Research Report for Sport England. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Nichols GS & James M (2017) Social Inclusion and Volunteering in Sports Clubs in Europe; findings for policy makers and practitioners in England and Wales View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Nichols GS, Ibsen B & Elmose-Osterlund K (2016) Sports club policies in Europe. A comparison of the public policy context and historical origins of sports clubs across ten European countries. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

Geoff is interested in supervising PhD students in the topic of volunteers in sport.

Teaching activities

Geoff retired from teaching in 2020. Prior to this, he led an undergraduate level 3 module - MGT363: The Leisure Industry - and a level 2 module - MGT242: Research Methods. Both modules drew on his research and aimed to develop students' ability to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own learning.

From 1999 to 2005, he led an MSc in Sport and Recreation Management which developed to become one of the best in the world. The educational rationale was also to develop students' ability to think for themselves; take responsibility for their own learning; and prepare them for work in the leisure industry. This was described in the publication:

Nichols, G., Holmes, K. and Garrett, R. (Eds.) The vocational relevance of Leisure Management courses. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University LTSN. 2001.

This MSC, and related courses in the Leisure Management group at the University of Sheffield, led by a group of colleagues, had a significant impact on the development of teaching in this field of study.

Professional activities and memberships
  • Trustee and member of the steering group of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network
  • Member of the editorial board of Voluntary Sector Review
  • Member of the research advisory group for the Observatory for Sport in Scotland
  • Reviewer for journals including: Voluntas, Voluntary Sector Review, Non-profit management and Leadership
  • Invited to contribute to the Labour Party front bench discussion on sport and recreation in 2021
  • Geoff was a founder member of the UK Sports Volunteering Research Network, which he chaired from 2009 to 2019. This network aims to link researchers and practitioners.
  • He has formerly served as a board member of the journal Leisure Studies and on the Leisure Studies Association executive committee.