A first for football as Bath City FC and University of Bath partner to create unrivalled football development programme
Bath City Football Club and the University of Bath have joined forces to create a partnership unique in British sport. The result is the new Bath City Under 21 Development Squad, an event that Bath City manager Adie Britton describes as, “the most exciting footballing development that has happened in my seven years at the club.”
Both the club and the University will provide players for the new team, which will start playing matches against development squads from local Football League teams this season.
The University of Bath already attracts students who wish to combine high-performance training with studying at the University, recently named the Sunday Times University of the Year for 2011/12. Students from within this group will be selected to play in the Bath City Development Squad, which will also include Bath City players returning from injury, trialists, squad players, and possibly players from the Bath City Academy Under 18 squad.
The Development Squad will also benefit enormously from the world-leading facilities at the University of Bath Sports Training Village. Matches will be played at Twerton Park, and the team will play in a Bath City kit.
Since the founding of Bath City’s Academy at Writhlington School three years ago there has been an obvious gap in the club’s ability to develop young players. After finishing the Academy programme at age 18, most players still require further physical development and coaching to play at the required standard for the Blue Square Bet Premier.
The new Development Squad will plug an important gap in Bath City’s ability to develop and nurture new players and will be a huge step towards making its position as a top non-league club sustainable for many seasons to come.
The University of Bath is world renowned for its sport programme, and is the training base for many of Britain’s top athletes, including Olympic Winter Games skeleton gold medallist Amy Williams, and 400 metre hurdles World Champion Dai Greene.
The partnership means that the University’s best players will have an opportunity to play at a higher level, and compete against the best professional football development squads in the southwest.
The Bath City Academy, based at Writhlington School near Radstock, was expanded earlier this season to include a Youth Development Squad. With the addition of the Under 21 Development Squad, Bath City now have three separate youth programmes that can directly nurture young talent from age 9 to positions on the senior team.
Bath City Manager Adie Britton said: “I believe that this co-operative venture with the University of Bath will, for the first time, turn Bath City into a club that is sustainable at a decent level of football. Very few clubs provide worthwhile programmes at this level, and a huge flow of talent is lost between the ages of 18-21. We’re hopeful that with a diligent recruitment campaign the two forces will be able to provide and nurture some exciting young players, and that an exciting flow of talent will start to come through to the first team.”
Bath City Chairman Manda Rigby said: “It would be difficult to overestimate what a big moment this is for Bath City, and what a step forward this is for sport in the region. Finances are forcing more and more clubs, sometimes very big league clubs, to eliminate development programmes. This partnership with the University has enabled us to buck the trend, and to give Bath City a structure that many much larger clubs would envy.
Stephen Baddeley, Director of Sport at the University of Bath, said: “We’re delighted to join Bath City in this exciting new partnership. We feel it’s good for Bath City, for the University and for Bath as a whole.”
Lee Smith, Head of Football at the University of Bath, said: “This is a very exciting partnership and we’re looking forward to being part of it. It will help our own football programme by giving University players the opportunity to play at a higher level.”
Don Foster, Member of Parliament for Bath, said: “I am delighted that such an innovative and progressive scheme has been created in Bath, further enhancing the city’s sporting reputation. Students will be offered the exciting opportunity to study at a world class University while simultaneously playing a high standard of football. At the same time, Bath City FC will benefit significantly from the creation of a talented development squad that will be the envy of the region, if not the country.”