Furness College is the first in Cumbria to join a national initiative to encourage girls to play football. The college has been offered a place as a Wildcats Academy by the Football Association and will be delivering sessions to 5-11 year olds in partnership with Barrow AFC Community Trust.
The aim is to develop the women’s game at primary school level and build future women’s teams through the college’s link with Barrow Football Club, whose coaches will be delivering the programme.
Matt Jefferson, physical education co-ordinator at Furness College, said the Wildcats Academy status enables the college to launch a 16-week female-only football programme at the first-class sports facilities at the Channelside campus.
“We are extremely proud and excited to be accepted into the FA’s Wildcats initiative,” he said. “This will hopefully be a step in the right direction to develop the women’s game in the area and build future teams through the links with Barrow AFC, also creating a pathway for our players to be signposted to local amateur clubs.”
Wildcats football centres offer girls aged 5-11 a chance to try football for the first time.
Sessions take place on a weekly basis, either after school or at weekends, at over 1,250 Wildcats centres across the country and are focused on helping girls make friends, have fun and be active through football.
Matt said: “Especially after the recent success of the England Women’s football team, we hope to try to engage more girls to enjoy and participate in football because it is a great way to meet new people and keep fit.”
Craig Rutherford, manager of Barrow AFC Community Trust, said: “We value girls football in the area and believe if we can achieve our goal of increasing participation at grassroots level, this will give us the best opportunity to work towards a sustainable Girls Performance Centre at the football club.”
Rob Graham, general manager of Barrow AFC, said: “This latest development through our partnership with the college is yet another brilliant piece of news in what is a very exciting season for the football club and the wider community.
“Looking ahead, it would be wonderful if an initiative like this can support female players to eventually progress into professional football careers here and nationally.”
Last year, the college partnered with the club to launch a College Football Academy for 16-18 year olds who want careers in sports and related industries.
Academy students, both male and female, split their time between studying a Level 3 BTEC in Sport at the Channelside campus and playing, coaching, training and learning about the business aspects of the club at Holker Street stadium. Applications are now open and more information is available here: https://www.furness.ac.uk/academy.
For more information about the Wildcats Academy contact Matt Jefferson on Matthew.Jefferson@furness.ac.uk.
Photo caption: Wildcats Academy partnership members Craig Rutherford, Matt Jefferson and Rob Graham in the sports hall at the Channelside campus