The role of a trauma-sensitive football group in the recovery of survivors of torture


  • Rebecca Horn Independent Psychosocial Specialist
  • Robin Ewart-Biggs Freedom from Torture
  • Freddie Hudson Arsenal in the Community
  • Selcuk Berilgen Freedom from Torture
  • Jack Ironside Arsenal in the Community
  • Anthony Prodromou Arsenal in the Community



torture survivors, sports therapy, football, programme model, refugees


Introduction: Whilst there is some preliminary evidence for the benefits of sports-related interventions for survivors of torture, how sport and exercise can contribute to the rehabilitation of torture survivors needs to be better understood. Specifically, this paper aims to: 1) explore the ways in which a football group contributed to the wellbeing of participants and; 2) suggest characteristics of the football group which could potentially contribute to its effectiveness. Methods: An exploratory mixed methods study was undertaken with participants and trainers of a joint programme delivered by Arsenal Football Club and Freedom from Torture in London. Individual discussions, group discussions and participatory ranking activities were used which led to the development of an initial programme model. This model was, subsequently, further developed through a variety of data collection methods. Results: Six potential outcomes of involvement in the football group were identified: relationships, a sense of belonging, hope for the future, emotion management, enjoyment, and improved physical health. In addition, the process highlighted factors contributing to the effectiveness of the football group: a sense of safety, therapeutic aims, similar participants, a partnership approach, staff characteristics, other opportunities, and consistency in terms of approach, session content and staff. Conclusions: This exploratory study outlines the potential benefits of the football programme that would require further validation through a case-control study and participant follow-up. A model is put forward as well as a number of recommendations that serve as a starting point for similar programmes and guides academic research in the area.


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How to Cite

Horn, R., Ewart-Biggs, R., Hudson, F., Berilgen, S., Ironside, J., & Prodromou, A. (2019). The role of a trauma-sensitive football group in the recovery of survivors of torture. Torture Journal, 29(1), 97–109.