A historic new ‘football federation’ has been announced to provide Wrexham FC with football talent and boost student numbers at Glyndŵr University.
Glyndŵr University and Wrexham FC have joined forces to launch the Glyndŵr Wrexham Football Academy (GWFA) meaning the football team could benefit from ex-Premiership and League players while they play and study on Mold Road.
The partnership will see former Wrexham & Liverpool FC striker Lee Jones and ex-Sheffield United assistant manager Adam Owen work with the University to provide footballers with degrees.
Everton FC legend and current Wrexham FC director Barry Horne will represent the football club and help spearhead the project.
GWFA ambassadors include former Liverpool FC and Real Madrid star Michael Owen, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsay and Neil Taylor, who is now at Premier League Swansea City having come through the ranks at Wrexham FC.
The Academy will allow professional footballers to study for a degree at Glyndŵr University while training and playing for the reds or a feeder club based in the Welsh football league.
Wrexham FC director Barry Horne says that this is a win-win situation for the club, the University and the local community.
He said: “This is one of those rare situations when you can see nothing but positives. It will give footballers the chance – in some cases a second chance – to better themselves academically, as well as in a sporting sense.
“Wrexham FC has a great track record in the development of young footballers and with the excellent facilities at Colliers Park and the Racecourse it could be very successful for all concerned.”
Horne added: “Glyndŵr University will be taking quality students and the football club will be taking quality players. With the support of the University, the club will also benefit from extra support in coaching, physiotherapy and other resources that Glyndŵr has at its disposal.
“It’s a brilliant project and means players won’t be forced to choose between football and an education, they can do both.”
With the backing of the Professional Football Association (PFA) and support from the League Football Education (LFE), the scheme will provide a unique educational strategy for up to 24 players released from their clubs within the Premier League and football league structure or mature players looking to their educational options whilst nearing the end of their careers; whilst still playing and training within a full time professional football environment.
The players will be both registered with Wrexham FC and students at Glyndŵr University, which owns the Racecourse stadium.
Alumnus Adam Owen, who gained a postgraduate degree from Glyndŵr, revealed how the concept dates back to his time as a young apprentice with the North Wales side.
“When I finished my YTS I wanted to stay on and be a professional footballer but I never pursued it to the highest level because I was also keen to carry on my education, as a back-up in case things didn’t work out,” he said.
“There were opportunities to do that in America but there was nothing in the UK that allowed me to be a footballer and keep up my studies.”
He added: “After spending a few years in the US and in Scotland and England on the coaching side, I approached Glyndŵr University with this idea.
“The opportunity was there and it’s now the perfect time for all concerned, especially the football club and the University – it’s definitely going to be a structure based on quality rather than quantity.”
Lee Jones says the scheme will also dispel myths surrounding the profession.
“A lot of people think footballers are not the brightest bunch but believe me there are many out there who would jump at this chance,” said Lee.
“When my career ended I was just 32 years old and had no idea what to do next. If this opportunity had been around at the time I would have definitely got involved, especially with the chance of getting a degree behind me.
Current proposals also include a business case for the management of player assets and a long term strategy that would allow the club to develop a framework for player development that goes further than had been possible beforehand.
The development of bespoke, applied sports expertise at the University, to support the workings of the football club through research, projects, placements, internships and resourcing is also in the pipeline.
Former Liverpool FC, Real Madrid, Manchester United and England striker Michael Owen was spotted recently at the Mold Road campus, and his involvement has been revealed today.
Owen also gave some insight to the type of player reds fans could expect to see, saying: “I think there are two stages to look at; some players are rejected and out of the game by the time they’re 20-22 years old, and there are others at the end of their career who need to get their skates on and think about what life is going to be like after football
“I think whatever level you’re at, whether you’re financially secure or not, when you finish you’ll get bored and want to get out of bed and get going and do something else.”
He added: “It’s important to pick what you want to do and do it. The added bonus of playing football at a high level and getting paid for it is a huge incentive.
“Wrexham FC is a fantastic club with passionate fans. To do something you want to do while gaining a qualification in another business is a fantastic opportunity. This is a really unique idea and if I was still playing I’d certainly be looking into it.”
Existing partners such as the Racecourse Community Foundation and Wrexham FC’s Centre of Excellence, and the involvement of former players such as Barry, Lee and Adam will ensure the ethos of the football club remains at the heart of the partnership, according to Glyndŵr’s Sports Manager Anna Marie Brown.
“All three of them have an association with Wrexham FC and understand that it is a club owned by the supporters,” she said.
“Importantly, everyone involved wants to make sure the next 150 years of this great football club’s future are spent here in Wrexham.”
For more information, and for players wanting to find out if they meet the criteria to join the Academy, Glyndwr are inviting people to email them on firstname.lastname@example.org