Professor Tom Reilly (1941-2009)
It is because of Tom Reilly’s vision, commitment and energy that the World Conference of Science and Football exists and continues to prosper today. His 1975 Doctoral thesis at the (then) Liverpool Polytechnic entitled “An ergonomic evaluation of occupational stress in professional football”, using data collected at his beloved Everton FC, sparked a union between academic research and sport which has thrived and flourished over the past 45 years. Quite rightly, Tom Reilly is regarded as the “Father of Science and Football”, as he worked tirelessly to nurture, foster and promote the application of scientific research into practical outcomes for football practitioners in all codes. He was pivotal in raising the profile of sports science within the University sector in Great Britain, culminating in the establishment of the very successful Football Exchange program, which has now been running for many years at Liverpool John Moores University (formerly the Liverpool Polytechnic). Indeed, many of the 50+ Doctoral students that Tom supervised while at Liverpool had topics with a football flavor, as he combined his sporting passions with his noted academic skill and rigour.
In 1987 Tom set up and ran the first World Congress of Science and Football at Liverpool; these have since been repeated every 4 years in 9 different countries, as Tom viewed it as fundamentally important that ‘Science and Football” should be global in its reach. Testament to his vision for this meeting is that it is now firmly entrenched in the global calendar of sports science conferences, attracting much interest for future hosting rights! The success of these meetings also spawned a “sister” congress in 2008, when the first dedicated ‘Science and Soccer” conference was held, once again in Liverpool under the astute stewardship of Tom Reilly. This satellite congress now also runs every 4 years, falling between one World Conference of Science and Football and the next.
Sadly, Tom passed away in 2009, but his strong and stout legacy remains firmly in place. He was the first ever Professor of Sports Science in the United Kingdom, and has now been followed by many of his former students, trained so well by him in academic, sporting and life matters. At Liverpool John Moores University there is the Tom Reilly Building, so named in honour of his enormous contribution to the University, but also to the discipline of sports science. And, at the World Conference of Science and Football, which only exists by virtue of the foresight, passion and vision of Tom, we honour him by having the Tom Reilly Tribute Lecture as one of the Keynote talks at each meeting. As Tom would insist, this talk should be across all football codes and be heavy on interpreting and applying the science as sensible and useful practical outcomes for coaches and players.
The WCSF2019 Tom Reilly Tribute Lecture will be presented by Professor Kevin Norton of University of South Australia.