Rovers Ladies have embarked on a new, mutually beneficial partnership with The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
Although Rovers and UCLan have been working together for several years, the formalising an official partnership has allowed an exciting pathway to be created and developed.
UCLan’s Director of Sport, Dr. Adrian Ibbetson spoke about why they decided to come together.
“We want to support the Club on a number of fronts. Firstly, in terms of support for the first team squad with match analysis, strength and conditioning (S&C), physiotherapy and sports therapy.
“We also want to create a pathway for female players who are good enough to play for the university.
“And then potentially find their way to the Rovers setup, possibly even in the first team, through our scholarship programme.”
Women’s football is part of the Talented Athletes Scholarship Scheme (TASS), which is run by UK Sport. One of Rovers’ Regional Talent Club (RTC) players is on that programme.
The university are currently offering support services to the player as part of TASS, such as physiotherapy and S&C, while psychology, nutrition and lifestyle support are also available.
“The women’s game has come on leaps and bounds, but it’s still hasn’t reached that equitable point with the men’s game,” he continued.
“Many women, even if they have successful careers, are still having to fall back on something else post-career, and many women actually are still having to work part-time while they play.
“That is part of the reason why we’re involved in TASS and why TASS nationally support the women’s game, to encourage women’s players to stay in education and have that dual career option.”
The partnership also sees Rovers defender Jade Richards fulfil the role of High Performance Coach within Women’s Football.
She believes it is important to ensure that the next generation of female talent have playing opportunities and also receive expert coaching at university age, to enhance the performance of the women’s university team.
Richards commented: “As coach I’m just trying to improve where they are now and have a pathway for Blackburn Rovers.
“It’s good to be working for both parties to bridge the gap and recruit students for the university from elsewhere that could potentially play for Blackburn as well.
“When players go to university, they sometimes just go for the course as UCLan is a good university to study at, but we’re trying to aim for them to go for the football as well.
“We integrate both to make it that wholesome package where they’ll be using the facilities and the expertise of performance analysis, physiotherapists and more to form an elite programme related to the girls.”
“It’s worked well and it’s been good to integrate both.
“I have Gemma’s (Donnelly) expertise as well to communicate through Blackburn and Adrian (Ibbetson) at UCLan who have come together to form something that could potentially be really good opportunity for both parties.”