The National Football League’s first-ever UK-based academy is relocating to Loughborough College in an effort to achieve “ambitious growth” and bag more students a US scholarship.
Barnet and Southgate College in London has been home to the academy since it set up in 2019 – providing students aged 16 to 19 the opportunity to play National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college football in the United States by combining full-time education with professional-level American football coaching.
The NFL reviewed the delivery of the programme earlier this year and decided to put the academy’s location out to tender. The contract was won by Loughborough College and plans have now been announced to move the academy to the Midlands at the end of this academic year.
From September 2022, all football and academic operations will move to Loughborough under a partnership between the town’s world-renowned sporting college and university.
The college will provide coaching, education, accommodation and pastoral support to its cohort of players, while the university will provide performance staff and facilities to focus on the physical development of students.
David Tossell, director of public affairs for the NFL Europe, said the move “shouldn’t be seen as any kind of knock” on Barnet and Southgate College as the college has “done a great job and were just what we needed to help get the academy established”.
Around 80 students have taken part in the NFL Academy, which attracts students from all over the UK and Europe, since its launch. Five of them have so far received scholarship offers from NCAA Division 1 colleges in the US, such as Arizona State, Vanderbilt and Louisiana Tech.
‘If you’re looking at a sporting institution, Loughborough has no equal in this country’
Tossell said the academy will continue to host around 80 students but there are hopes of increasing the numbers scoring a US scholarship with the move to Loughborough.
“If you’re looking at a sporting institution, Loughborough pretty much has no equal in this country. So clearly, partnering with the college and university gives us a greater chance of elevating the sporting results that we achieved through the academy.”
Recent high-profile names to come out of Loughborough include Olympic gold medallist swimmer Adam Peaty, silver medallist triathlon competitor Alex Yee, British track and field athlete Holly Bradshaw, and Paralympians Thomas Young and Sophie Hahn.
Other international athletes to come through Loughborough’s pathway include England football internationals Ben Chilwell, Jude Bellingham and Steph Houghton, England netball stars Nat Panagarry and Beth Cobden and Olympic medallist Keely Hodgkinson.
Loughborough College principal Jo Maher said Loughborough has a track record of “nurturing and developing elite athletes through high-quality pastoral support and teaching” and she “cannot wait to welcome our first cohort of students on the NFL pathway”.
“This is a golden opportunity for everyone involved to forge a truly impactful and successful academy which creates potential NFL stars of the future, and it’s one we’re delighted to be part of,” she added.
Barnet and Southgate College principal Neil Coker said his college was “extremely proud” to have been the first FE partner of the NFL and to act as a “robust testing ground for how the model can work and be improved”.
He told FE Week it was always the intention to review the programme after the first few years and this new partnership “opens up real opportunities for scale and ambitious growth that can now be achieved”.
The NFL would not reveal how much funding was received by Barnet and Southgate College or Loughborough College to partner with the programme as the values are commercially sensitive.