City and Exeter College celebrate 15 years of partnershipExeter City Football Club have kitted up future stars at Exeter College to celebrate both 15 years of partnership and Futsal becoming part of the college Sports Academy offer.
The long-established partnership with the college has gone from strength to strength in recent years and now sees 45 students on the men’s academy, 23 on the women’s academy, and 50 students combined taking part in the level two and three futsal Academy.
The new playing kit, provided by Exeter City and supported by Joma, allows for both the men’s and ladies teams to proudly display the partnership during training and at matches, and acts as a reminder to the students of what they aspire to be.
Futsal, in its fifth year and now part of the College’s sports academy, is a BTEC sport programme offered by Exeter City’s charity Football in the Community. It provides a unique opportunity for 16 to 19 year olds to complete either a level two or three BTEC qualification, whilst competing in a Professional Futsal League against other Football League clubs.
Throughout the programme students earn qualifications that will help them gain employment in the sport and leisure industry, as well as training and competing in a professional futsal environment for one of the five Exeter City teams. Students benefit from the facilities at Exeter College, the University of Exeter as well as the external learning centres based at St James Park.
The partnership between Exeter City and Exeter College combines on-field training and matches with academic study. As well as having a performance pathway through the club’s apprenticeship scheme, the sports academy gives aspiring footballers the opportunities to develop their talents and focus on full-time academic or vocational courses should they not quite break through as a professional player.
Throughout the last four years Exeter City has provided the college with a member of its coaching staff to work alongside the colleges coaches to deliver the Men’s Academy sessions and Goalkeeper specific coaching. Currently this is Aaron Pugh who is an ex-student and Football Academy member.
By offering quality coaching the men’s team are now playing in category one of AOC leagues; the highest level available which gives a real credibility and a better level of competition, improving performance and experience in the long run. This association not only provides the opportunity to progress, but also acts as a safety net for the youngsters who aren’t offered an apprenticeship with the club, allowing a member of City staff to monitor their progress.
The ladies’ team follows the same infrastructure; a college member of staff supported by an Exeter City staff member who delivers three training sessions a week and fixtures on Wednesdays. This setup provides excellent progression routes into the Exeter City Ladies set up with several of the Exeter College Ladies’ Academy team now playing for the Exeter City Ladies first team.
Exeter College is pivotal in making sure that players who come through the academy, but are not offered scholarships, still have a pathway to returning to professional or semi-professional football, coaching, or attaining academic opportunities that continue into a wide variety of fields, supported by the college’s extensive programmes.
Chris Wall, Exeter College sports academy manager, said: “The partnership between the college and Exeter City has grown rapidly over the last few years, it is a testament to the effort and dedication shown from both organisations.
“The academies are a fantastic opportunity for talented youngsters to work with the football club without having to forfeit their education, and gives those who don’t make it something to fall back on, or to progress on to.”
Recent success stories of the partnership include Elliott Frear, who was released by Exeter City as a 14-year-old. He went on to gain a place in the Exeter College Football Development squad after various trials where City kept a close eye on his progress during college training and games, inviting him to pre-season sessions, under-18 and reserve team games.
On the completion of his two years he was awarded a short-term contract with the club where he would go on to make 11 appearances for the Grecians, debuting in the FA Cup, before a short stint with Salisbury City. Elliott joined Forest Green Rovers in 2014 and has been regular in their team.
Versatile midfielder Scot Bennett, who made 132 appearances for the Grecians between 2011 and 2015, came through from Exeter College on route to becoming a professional footballer.
Speaking on behalf of Exeter City, Chairman Julian Tagg, said: “I have a great association with Exeter College having worked there for some time.
“It is pleasing to see the strength of the partnership continue to grow, and to witness the ever-improving opportunities for students connected with Exeter City that our club provides to shape academic opportunities leading to employment both inside football and sport, and the wider world.”