Accelerating the progress of Women and Girls in Football

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we look at how the network of EFL Club Community Organisations aim to give women in football and sport equal opportunities to succeed, and accelerate their progress in their chosen pathway.

With recognition that women were under-represented across the Football and Sport’s Coaching degree courses that are run at over 40 Clubs in partnership with the University of South Wales, the Female Development programme was established in the academic year of 2021-22 to ensure all women on the course were offered a tailored programme of opportunities to expand their knowledge and confidence with other women from other Clubs.

By ensuring an inclusive environment, with opportunities to network and hear from like-minded professionals in the sport, the programme ensures that the students on the degree course are provided with the opportunity to upskill and build confidence.

Throughout the year they have access to a variety of events that feature female professionals from a variety of roles within sport. This helps give students the confidence to seek out all the opportunities that are available to them.

Speakers to date have included senior members of the EFL Trust, who have shared their experiences of working in sport, from working off the field, to being front and centre on it. They have also heard from Daisy Croker who referees on the FA Women’s National League and the U21s Professional Game Academy League and has been involved in refereeing for the last 7 years, working her way through the ranks.

With coaching being a huge element of the degree courses, Jayne Jackson, EFL Trust’s Wildcats Project Manager provided the girls with best practices and advice on getting involved with their local Club Community Organisations and the Wildcats programme. As a result of this, some of the students have begun volunteering at their local Wildcats sessions.

From Grassroots football to the professional game, Charlotte Healy, Manchester United Women’s Assistant Coach will be a guest speaker next month as she discusses her journey and progression her from role as a community coach at Derby County Community Trust to the pinnacle of English football in the Women’s Super League.

With the opportunity to grow, develop and establish themselves in the industry, it is no wonder the Female Development programme has become a pivotal part in the increasing number of female students on the USW degree courses. With just 12 students in its first year, last year 36 students were engaged in the programme.

Whilst the University of South Wales degree programme creates opportunity for women to coach the game, our CCOs also offer a pathway for Girls to play the game. This is from the very first kick of a ball with Wildcats to the Talent Inclusion programme which helps girls who dream of representing England one day.

The Wildcats programme, in run partnership with the FA, is aimed at young girls aged 5-11 promotes a non-competitive, fun environment for all from those wanting to try football for the first time to girls who just want to play the game with girls the same age as them. This not only promotes fundamental skills required on the pitch but also develops life skills off it from effective communication to the ability to problem solve as part of a wider team.

Whilst only a small number of girls will go on to receive full senior caps at International level, our Talent Inclusion programme, also run in partnership with the FA, ensures every girl has equal chance to do so, regardless of their background.

The Talent Inclusion programme ensures that through existing community activities, participants with potential can be identified and referred to the FA England Women’s Talent Pathway. The EFL Trust’s CCOs work in some of the most deprived communities in England, where individuals and families experience challenges when trying to participate in sport and other activities. Women’s football has become a significant part of CCO delivery and engagement has hit an all-time high, given this, there is a considerable opportunity for potential to be identified and developed in the right environment. In particular, research from The FA has indicated that girls from low-socio-economic urban areas are not progressing into the talent system which is a lost opportunity for both young girls and the England team.

The Talent Inclusion programme is specifically run by over 60 EFL Club Community Organisations, who engage with young girls from low social economic communities and underrepresented groups, and look to refer talented players who, for whatever reason, may not be able to access traditional talent pathways.

It is paramount to the future of England women’s football that the pathway is a system for all. The EFL Trust and The FA are committed to working collaboratively to be creative and inventive to achieve this goal together.

‘Inspiring’ Blackpool FC School offers chance to children who ‘struggle with mainstream education’ 

Blackpool FC have showcased their onsite school which looks to offer children who experience challenges in mainstream education a chance to fulfil their potential and be known for their personalities and aspirations.

The school, which opened its doors in 2021, has proved to be a great success, with manager Neil Critchley and goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell heading down to the school last week to oversee one of the many football sessions the school hosts for the pupils.

ITV Football visited the school to find out more.

Speaking to ITV, Critchley said: “I’ve been really impressed and the January transfer window is still open, so some of these players might be coming in on Monday! I used to work in schools many years ago when I was a young coach starting out and you know the impact you can have on some of the younger people, the happiness it brings, their sense of belonging, social interaction, their inclusion.

“Coming down here today and being just a small part of it is quite amazing really, it’s quite inspiring to be honest with you.”

The school, which is open to children between the ages of 14 and 16, is the vision of Blackpool FC Community Trust and is found at Blackpool’s home ground Bloomfield Road, in a purpose-built facility in the North Stand area of the stadium.

Gemma Trickett, Headteacher of Blackpool FC School, told ITV: “The school’s open for students who struggle with mainstream [education]. That could be for a variety of different reasons, whether it’s special needs or it could be behavioural issues.

“Our vision and ethos at the school is to ensure that every child in Blackpool has an alternate provision where they can access a curriculum that’s suited to their needs.”

Blackpool FC School offers a unique experience which looks to inspire and engage each young person who walks through the doors of the building. The school aims to recognise each person individually and take a holistic approach to meet their needs and development.

The Tangerines are one of 72 Clubs across the EFL that use the power of football to engage young people who have not found the ideal place to grow. Figures from the latest ‘Measuring the Impact of EFL Clubs in the Community’ revealed 85% of the 309,648 participants engaged on education, training and employment programmes at EFL Clubs reported improved attainment at school.

Gemma continued: “I think it’s a great opportunity that the students have to be able to play alongside the first team, for the first team coach to come down and watch our students involved in football.

“They’re really excited.”

Ashley Hackett, CEO of Blackpool FC Community Trust, said: “The biggest success for me was last year we had our first cohort finish year 11 of 12 students. 11 of them have now gone onto positive destinations and by that we mean they’re in college or they’re in a job.

“This is an unbelievable achievement by the team.”

How the support of USW and Carlisle United Community Sports Trust has driven Ross to ensure sport is accessible.

As an avid fan of Carlisle United, the opportunity for Ross to study for a degree at his Club provided him with “great joy and a whole new feeling of excitement” which meant ‘work’ didn’t feel like ‘work’ to Ross.

Moreover, the extra support from the academic mentors at Carlisle United helped Ross learn in a way that suited him and his own personal circumstance.

He said: “Often I would go into the study centre and ask for help, they would help me structure my work in a way that my autism would understand, which would allow me to complete the work successfully.”

The University of South Wales allows students to gain practical experience in their desired nature of work, whilst allowing for a blended learning approach where students have both face-to face and online learning. The courses which are hosted at your local football club has a huge emphasis on gaining real world learning through placements with students only having to attend the University for short residential periods.

Students on the degree programme have numerous points of support, despite its blended learning approach from club mentors to lecturers. This level of support was a huge driver in Ross’ success in completing his degree with a first class.

As an individual who thrives off support and inclusion, Ross he enjoyed the residential trips that happen throughout the year. The students travel to Cardiff to take part in theory and practical sessions that allow them to meet their lecturers and peers in person.

Ross explained: My favourite part of the degree was going down to Cardiff on residential, meeting my lectures, meeting friends and having a chat with everyone because it was all people within the same boat as me, the same interests who wanted to do what I do and talking to them made me feel like I had strong friendships.”

With these bonds, and Ross’ passion for inclusion, the degree has prepared him for his future career.

“When I was growing up there was never a team that was for me my Autism, so I felt I missed out a bit. However, there’s lots of inclusion and sport involved within the degree as well as man management and methods of working with children and people with differences.  This  has helped me use those within my work and I want to make sure that in the future everyone get to enjoy sport.”

Ross currently works at Carlisle Youth Zone where he endeavours to put a smile on everyone’s faces through ensuring  everyone has access to sport.

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From work experience to School Sports Coordinator: How USW gave Leah the skills for full-time employment at Wigan Athletic Community Trust.

Leah is no stranger to Wigan Athletic Community Trust having first been given an insight into the fantastic work they do to serve their local people whilst on work experience in secondary school.

Leah comments, “Whilst I was ok at school, I was just bumbling a long and not overly interested in anything. However the work experience at the Trust inspired me to want to be part of what they do.”

Having impressed, she was invited back at interview stage for an 18-month apprenticeship. The familiarity of her surroundings put her in good stead and been Leah completed the apprenticeship programme before moving on to the foundation degree programme in partnership with the University of South Wales.

The University of South Wales allows students to gain practical experience in their desired nature of work, whilst allowing for a blended learning approach where students have both face-to face and online learning. The courses which are hosted at your local football club has a huge emphasis on gaining real world learning through placements with students only having to attend the University for short residential periods.

Although the foundation degree programme provides blended learning, allowing students to learn remotely whilst accessing work-placement opportunities. There is also a large emphasis on the cohesion and enjoyment that residential trips provide.

However, with a national lockdown in place, Leah would not get to experience the degree as she did in her 2nd and 3rd years. However, she would not be disheartened.

As the world opened again, Leah could venture into the working world through a plethora of opportunities that the Trust provides though various provisions.

She explained that this exposure made her “more organised, be able to manage time and become a better coach.”

This was the start of Leah’s journey into full time employment at the club she had known for years.

With a promotion to School Sports Coordinator shortly after she graduated from the University of South Wales, it was a role that she adores.

She said: “I absolutely love working with children, they brighten my day with how enthusiastic they are about PE and Sport.”

Despite, self admittedly not being an avid football fan like many who enrol on the course, Leah’s story is an example of how the University of South Wales Foundation Degree allows students to tailor their own learning and pathways to excel at all levels of coaching from football to dance.


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Foundation Degree with Bristol Rovers helped Will build confidence in finding his future career path.

Will always wanted to be a football coach, but lacked the confidence to fulfil his dream.

He was nervous about seeking out the opportunities that would allow him to progress into coaching and not comfortable in asking for help either. This was a driver in Will’s decision to enroll on the USW Foundation degree course at Bristol Rovers. He was fan of the Club and the course offered the chance to gain coaching experience alongside his studies, which in turn removed the daunting idea of having to find the opportunities himself.

He described himself as “never the confident person in the room, I would always be the one at the back being quiet.”  However, the foundation degree nurtured Will’s confidence and exposed him to real-world working environments that took him out of his comfort zone and allowed him to grow both personally and professionally.

The University of South Wales allows students to gain practical experience in their desired nature of work, whilst allowing for a blended learning approach where students have both face-to face and online learning. The courses which are hosted at your local football club has a huge emphasis on gaining real world learning through placements with students only having to attend the University for short residential periods.

The foundation degree also provides students with the ability to gain further qualifications alongside their studies including their coaching badges, something that helped Will to hone in on his future.

He explained: “I felt this differed from different educational experiences as I was able to gain work experience whilst studying. I was able to gain qualifications along the way and was able to work on different projects that the trust offered to find the area of work I enjoyed the most.”

As someone who struggled for confidence, Will hugely benefited from the small class size as it allowed him to gain more in depth, individual support from his degree mentor. Will has continued at his degree provider, Bristol Rovers Community Trust where he is now Head of Inclusion and Degree Mentor on the same programme that provided him the platform to develop his self-belief, confidence and career aspirations.

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Port Vale FC Captain offers inspiration to Vale’s Education Squad

Port Vale FC skipper Nathan Smith welcomed new members to the Club ‘family’ at the launch of Port Vale Foundation’s Education Squad Programme.

The captain, who’s been with the Club, since 2014 – appearing more than 300 times for The Valiants – presented to a new cohort of learners for the popular education initiative which kicked off at Vale Park at the start of the 23/24 season.

Following an enrolment on a BTEC level 2/3 in Sport, the learners met Nathan at Vale Park with their families, where the captain outlined the culture, values and expectations throughout the Club.

Nathan said “The importance the Club places on valuing people is of the highest importance. We invest time and energy into making people the best they can be, and we set high standards for all staff, volunteers and learners.

“It was great to meet new members of the Port Vale family and give them a congratulations on achieving the required results as well as giving them insight into the way we do things at Port Vale.”

The Foundation revealed 23/24 Education Squad Goalkeeper Tom Beeby was called up to the club’s first team which shows the programme’s impact which operates in conjunction with Stoke-on-Trent College.

The EFL Club Community Organisation said: “We’re immensely proud that Tom’s hard work and positive mindset has given him this amazing opportunity.”



Sunderland AFC gets David ‘Back on Track’

David Little left school in 2017 with very few qualifications and low in confidence.  He joined Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light’s, ‘Back on Track’ programme and started a journey with his Football Club that eventually led to him securing full-time employment with a locally based company, ‘Vantec.’ 

The Foundation’s Back on Track programme is specifically designed for students who leave school with little or no qualifications. The programme engages, inspires and educates young people aged 16-19 by helping them achieve nationally recognised qualifications, improve their numeracy and literacy skills and gain practical working experience.

At the start of  the programmes, David often shied away from group tasks causing a knock-on effect to his already low confidence.  Consequently, David struggled with his self-esteem and had no clear vision on what he desired his future to look like and was therefore hesitant on making decisions that would correlate and affect his future.

Despite this, the support and guidance of the Foundation’s staff along with David’s perseverance would eventually pay off.

With programmes ending and unsure about his next steps, David started to experience anxiety. It was then he was told about a potential two-week work placement with Vantec – a logistics solution provider in the automotive parts logistics field.

Determined to grab the opportunity with both hands, David quickly accepted the proposal put forward to him by Foundation staff, with the latter eager to help David prepare as efficiently as possible.

Ahead of his work experience placement in August 2022, David was supported with interview preparation, he received help updating his CV and was provided with useful information around Vantec and who they were as a business.

Despite being very hesitant in the early exchanges of his two-week placement, David grew in confidence, completing tasks on his own and using his own initiative.

While on placement, David was also supported financially, receiving lunch and travel bursaries. Regular site visits were made to catch up with David enabling Foundation staff to find out how he was getting on and if he needed any further support.

At the end of his placement, Vantec offered David a full-time contract. Although Vantec staff felt he still had a lot to learn, they were very impressed with David’s attitude and dedication, which ultimately played a key part in David gaining full-time employment.

Anthony Parkinson, a Skills Officer at the Foundation of Light, has built a good rapport with David, helping him to become more work ready. He said: “David is the epitome of how the Foundation of Light can transform someone’s life.

“Staff that have worked previously with David over the years are really proud of how far he has come. Through hard work and determination, David deserves this opportunity.”

David continues to work at Vantec with his employers very impressed with his development. He added: “I’m loving it so far. I really like it here. Thank you to the Foundation of Light for helping me get this opportunity.”

EFL Clubs roll out new BA Hons Degree increasing education opportunities for all.

Football fans who want to learn about the business of football can study at their football Club thanks to a new BA Hons degree course in Sports Business Management which will be available at 17 EFL Clubs from September 2023.

Delivered in partnership with the University of South Wales, the degree is specifically designed for students who are looking for a career in business and management within the sports industry. Each individual will get the unique chance to study at their local football Club, often at the stadium via an online learning platform and will receive mentoring support and practical work experience through the Club’s community organisation.

To launch the degree, BTEC students from QPR were invited to demonstrate their business acumen and to come up with ways to boost match day revenue for the Club. Their ideas were pitched to a group of football ‘dragons’, including QPR players Josh De Silva and Trent Rendall.

You can see how they got on here.

QPR are one of 17 EFL Clubs running the new degree from September where students will cover topics including business planning, financial management and marketing.

The first pitch at the launch event was by Avante Joseph and Myles Mari who presented the ‘QPR App, giving fans the chance to access exclusive content about the Club, from the men’s first team to the academy, as well as live commentary of games.

The second pitch by Denzel Magezi, Matheus Rossi and Oliver Hearn-Lee proposed the ‘E-sports room’ offering fans the opportunity to compete in E-Sports tournaments against their heroes in renowned games such as FIFA and Fortnite.

The final pitch came from Angela Oceja, who’s idea was a pre and post-match ‘Community Festival’ to ensure the Club embraced every aspect of its local community. It would give a platform to local DJs, performers, food business and other local entertainers to participate.

On the judging panel the ‘dragons’ included Josh De Silva and Trent Rendall from QPR, Emily Fermor of Hanbury Strategy and Jay Probert from the University of South Wales.

Emily said: “We were very impressed with the plans and it was obvious that the students had done their market research. We were particularly impressed with how each pitch had considered and looked to improve the fan’s experience and deciding the winner was very difficult.”

After a long deliberation of three very impressive pitches the judges awarded Denzel, Matheus and Oliver’s ‘E-sport room’ as the overall winners, with the trio taking home their very own tablet as their prize. Trent commented: “The market research the students had carried out was very impressive. We could really see how this would work and would be something that we’d be excited to get involved in.”

Cathy Abraham, Chief Executive of the EFL Trust said, “The degree is a fantastic opportunity for people to learn about the business side of sport and to do so while getting invaluable hands on experience at a professional Football Club. This is another great example of how Clubs use the power of the badge and their unique position in the community to improve people’s education and chance of gaining meaningful employment.“

Clubs delivering BA Hons Degree in Sport Business Management:
Accrington Stanley, AFC Fylde, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Burton Albion, Cardiff City, Carlisle United, ,Derby County, Exeter City, Hull City, Leyton Orient, Lincoln City, Nottingham Forest, Preston North End, QPR, Sheffield United, Shrewsbury Town, Tranmere Rovers,West Brom Albion.

To find out more about the degree go to

Foundation Degree with Stevenage Foundation enhanced Sonny’s leadership as a coach.

Prior to enrolling on the Foundation Degree with Stevenage Foundation, in partnership with the University of South Wales Sonny was already well known at the Foundation having been an apprentice.

His experience within the environment meant Sonny already had a high level of confidence when it came to coaching and working as part of a team environment. Although Sonny’s foundations did not need building in this instance, the Degree Course was perfect for him to develop further on and off the pitch and nurture his leadership skills.

The University of South Wales allows students to gain practical experience in their desired nature of work, whilst allowing for a blended learning approach where students have both face-to face and online learning. The courses which are hosted at your local football club has a huge emphasis on gaining real world learning through placements with students only having to attend the University for short residential periods.

Personal and professional development is paramount on the Foundation Degree and something Sonny excelled at despite having a wealth of previous experience.

With the possibility to always improve, Sonny said: “ I was able to develop my understanding of coaching techniques to discover how they work in getting the best out of each individual/group.”

As a result, Sonny is now the lead coach for local club Bishops Stortford where his ability to differentiate between coaching techniques is pivotal as he coaches children ranging from U7’s to U13’s.

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University of South Wales graduate now working full-time at Stevenage Foundation and Stevenage FC Academy.

Whilst on the Foundation Degree in partnership with the University of South Wales and Stevenage Foundation, Josh gained on the job experience through the Foundations community projects that has allowed him to make the natural progression into full-time coaching.

The University of South Wales allows students to gain practical experience in their desired nature of work, whilst allowing for a blended learning approach where students have both face-to face and online learning. The courses which are hosted at your local football club has a huge emphasis on gaining real world learning through placements with students only having to attend the University for short residential periods.

Consequently, through the mixed learning styles that the degree course holds, Josh was able to develop both personally and professionally to benefit his own coaching, and the experience of the participants he now coaches.

He said: “ The course allowed me to learn different coaching techniques in order to manage each and every individual differently. This allows me to add a different strength to my coaching as my ability to manage individuals with different abilities has improved.”

The course also gave Josh the opportunity to gain professional qualifications in his UEFA B license, that set the foundations for his progression where he not only coaches at the Foundation but is also the lead U12’s coach at Stevenage FC Academy.

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