Filton Academy – Driving Rovers Forward

October 13, 2005

Following on from the open night, it was felt that as many weren’t able to see the facilities for themselves or listen to the Adademy principle Kevin Hamblin, it would be of value for people to get an idea of the set up there and the value it offers Bristol Rovers. I hope you can take the time to read this article and see just how Rovers can benefit from this unique opportunity.

Bristol Rovers / Filton College Youth Development Policy

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Vision

The scheme exists to identify, attract and retain elite players, nurture a player’s footballing development and to ultimately prepare 16-19 year olds for a professional contract with Bristol Rovers FC.

All parties are committed to supporting the growth of the personal, educational and sporting needs of the individual. This in turn will ensure that players who do not make it through to a full Professional Contract are able to achieve a positive contribution to society.

Values

· Elite players require a development process to protect and nurture their special talents
· There will be effective College/home/Bristol Rovers links.
· The curriculum will be flexible around the needs of the player, club and course, as the individual progresses through the various squads. [image2]
· Bristol Rovers will have regular access to the very best players.
· Young gifted players will not be exposed to too much competitive football and too little practice time.
· Enhanced facilities and medical provision are central to the scheme.
· Competitive matches are part of an integrated development programme.
· Only UEFA A/B qualified coaches will work with Elite players.
· All staff will be registered, screened and provided with specific training regarding Child Protection.

What is the Scheme?

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<p>Filton College Academy currently has 50 player students in two squads of 25, which benefit from the unique set-up which allows players the opportunity to participate in football alongside a vast array of academic courses, such as GCSEs, NVQs, A Levels and National Diplomas.

For Bristol Rovers, the scheme which is run as an alternative to the Football League Scheme which many other Football League teams offer their “apprentices”.
The A Squad is the Bristol Rovers Youth Team at U18’s, but any developing plyers from the Academy B Squad could progress to the A squad.

Filton College has forged strong partnership links with Bristol Rovers Football Club and six boys are now regularly training with the first team squad, two of which have signed full professional contracts. This season 13 players have come through from Bristol Rovers Centre of Excellence which is run from the College’s new £17.5 million sports training complex known as WISE (West of England Institute of Specialist Education), which is also the first team training base.

The A Squad players represent Bristol Rovers Youth at Under-18 level, and have the opportunity to earn professional contracts with the club. Many of these players also play regularly for Bristol Rovers Reserve team in competitive matches. In 2004-2005 season 22 of the 25 A Squad boys played for Rovers Reserves. [image4]

Scholars will normally be selected via the Bristol Rovers Centre of Excellence or from the Premier League/Football League exit trials. It could also be possible for full-time students to be offered a college based scholarship from the Filton College Football Academy. Entry to the scholarship scheme is by invitation from BRFC only.

All scholars would be offered a full time academic or vocational course. The programme allows up to 16 hours of football coaching, preparation, matchplay and recovery.

The Rovers – Filton College Link [image5]

A common mistake is to think that a college-based scheme does not have Bristol Rovers at heart – that somehow it is second-best. This is simply untrue.

The coaching of scholars is overseen by A licensed coaches with extensive experience in the development of young players. These staff have the long-term best interest of the player in mind and offer a mix of ex-professional, centre of excellence and general coaching experience. The high coach to player ratio cannot be replicated in a traditional club-based scheme – a real positive benefit of this partnership.

Add to this, the involvement of Mark Hammond, ex-Bristol City FC Fitness consultant, and an array of dieticians, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, scientists and biomechanists and the true depth of support available to the scholars becomes apparent.

The College based scholarship scheme has replaced the PFA scholarship scheme to enable the scholars to access enhanced facilities at Filton College and for BRFC to nurture more talent across three years (16-19).

The Scheme is intended to allow time for potential professional players to develop physically as well as technically without the need to make decisions too early on a player’s potential. [image6]

Tony Ricketts, Director of the Football Academy, will be responsible for all scholars’ development. Tony is a UEFA ‘A’ licensed coach who recently completed a spell as acting first team coach for BRFC. Tony is assisted by two other A licensed coaches: Wayne Powell and Steve Rutter.Wayne is a former professional player with Rovers and Swansea. He has experience in managing Swansea’s Centre of Excellence. Steve is a former player, coach and manager of Yeovil Town, England U16’s manager and an FA regional director. All our coaches are employed because they have a passion for developing youth players and recognise that the demands of a young player are not always best served by training in an exclusive first team environment (although this is a distinct advantage as the youngster matures as a footballer).

The scholars will be expected to attend all timetabled academic and football related activities, which will include sessions with the first team squad.

All scholars will be available for matches on a Wednesday for the College and/or for the BRFC U18 reserve and first team duties as appropriate.

Comparing the Filton Academy / Bristol Rovers concept with the Football League System

Both the Football League scheme and the Filton College/Bristol Rovers scheme provide 16 hours coaching within a full time college course. However with the Filton College/Bristol Rovers scheme training with the 1st team is an integral part of the course, which is not the case with the league scheme.

The Football League scheme is limited to 6 students whereas there is no limit to the
Filton College/Bristol Rovers scheme. Indeed there are some 50 students within the college “A” and “B” team squads.
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Being linked to the college also gives players the chance to play in more teams, blending a mix to suit the players development. Bristol Rovers are deliberately giving the scholars the chance to play reserve team football, and there is also the choice of U18, county and Filton College matches. In addition the best scholars have a chance to play for English Schools and English Colleges teams.

This scheme does not pay scholars a wage – the Football League Scheme pays £40 per week. However, as a full time student there are funds available to offset travel and subsistence costs such as the Educational Maintenance Allowance, College Bursary and an excellent Sport Sponsorship Scheme all of which will be discussed with each scholar prior to commencement of the programme.

Summary – Pros and Cons of the Football League and Filton College/Bristol Rovers Scheme

Pros:
Equivalent coaching on both schemes
Better facilities than most Professional Clubs
More extensive support staff
Unlimited numbers, no financial pressure to release players
More opportunity to perform

Cons:
Unwaged, although there are funds to support scholars which could be in excess of the FL scheme

First Steps of the Scheme – Recognition

As well as club/college games, scholars will be eligible for regional and national representative squads including the English Schools’ Football Association. In 2004/5 the College had three players in the ESFA squad of 16 – the maximum allowed for any one institution. These representative honours will enhance a player’s experience, and will also place them in an arena which makes other clubs aware of their ability. All scholars will be given regular feedback on their progress by BRFC and areas of strength and development will be discussed.

In January 2005 Filton College celebrated its successful bid to the Football Association to become a Charter Standard College. The accolade is the benchmark for quality in setting top standards for providing the best opportunities for young people who wish to develop their footballing talent whilst balancing their education. Further Education Colleges, Sixth Form Colleges and Higher Education Institutions are all eligible to apply for Charter Standard status. [image8]

Filton College was among a select handful of 11 further education establishments in England to win the much-coveted accolade of FA Charter Standard status – the first time further education establishments have been eligible for such recognition. Filton College is also one of only four to be recognised for its work with both male and female teams.

Sir Trevor Brooking, The FA’s Director of Football Development said: “We congratulate Filton College for their fantastic achievement and their commitment to grassroots football. The College is one of over 3500 FA Charter Standard Schools and Colleges around the country committed to putting themselves at the heart of their local football communities, not only for existing participants but for future generations too.”

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