Football is Britain's most popular sport, and finding future football talent is big business. Universities, sporting trusts and professional football clubs across the country offer scholarships for young people to reach their sporting potential. Competition for spots on teams is often fierce, and winning a scholarship does not guarantee a career on the pitch.
Football Scholarships for University Students
Many universities offer scholarships and bursaries to young footballers to nurture their skills while studying for a degree.
Heriot-Watt University in Scotland runs a scheme with a local football academy, and some of their students have progressed to playing in professional clubs. Scholarships are offered to players who also have professional experience but wish to continue their academic education. Bursaries, where a sum of money toward your studies is given, are available for students competing at university level. Bursaries are offered on an annual basis, with the possibility of an extension throughout the player's time at university. Some colleges and university sports science courses also offer funding for football training.
Football Scholarships for Post 16 Players
Younger footballers of school leaving age (16) have the chance to apply for a scholarship at further education or sixth form colleges. Different colleges offer differing courses and levels of funding. Gateshead College in Newcastle-upon-Tyne runs a football scholarship program for youngsters who have played for a professional club in a junior team. During the scholarship, students attend daily training sessions and have at least one day a week of their timetable dedicated to football. This and other post 16 scholarships give students the chance to study for recognised sporting qualifications such as a BTEC National Diploma.
Football Association Scholarships
Football's governing body in the U.K., the Football Association, runs scholarships in conjunction with academic institutions around the country. It not only offers scholarships for players but for referees and coaches. Competition is intense, and candidates must show brilliance on the football field and be focused about their ambitions.
Scholarships from Charitable Trusts
Sporting trusts such as the Youth Sport Trust offer funding toward equipment, training costs, travel expenses and medical support for young athletes including footballers. Scholarships include the Supporting Talented Athletes on the Road to Success program and the Calum Johnston Scholarship for talented youngsters including footballers.
Scholarships from Professional Football Clubs
Many league clubs have football development programs, and some offer scholarships. West Ham United in East London offers 12 young people the chance to become scholarship trainees. Students study for Football Association qualifications in coaching and pass on their skills to local schools. Manchester United runs a football academy and recruits using talent scouts. The team watches young players and selects boys showing talent. You cannot apply to join the academy. The only way to join is to be selected. Funding for training is provided for academy members.