Tottenham-backed programs target students as sports economy takes off
The University of Wollongong near Sydney and the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of England have teamed up to launch educational programs with soccer as an extracurricular subject from January 2020, which is expected to help China realize its long-term dream of emerging as a global force in the sport.
The programs, which will be offered at both master's and bachelor's levels, will tap into China's policy to encourage enterprises, international clubs, institutions and other stakeholders in the world of soccer to select outstanding young Chinese players for training overseas.
Typically, soccer clubs overseas run as sound business enterprises. The sport is regarded as a multibillion-dollar industry. The soccer economy has huge implications for brands, as seen during the June-July World Cup in Russia, where Chinese brands distinguished themselves through sponsorships and supplies of apparel, sportswear and accessories, industry insiders said.
Given China's professed intent to promote soccer in a big way in the country, the Australian university and Tottenham are eager to foster a new generation of international-grade soccer talent by selecting and training suitable Chinese students, their executives said.
The university has earned a name for itself as a breeding ground for sporting talent. Its sports programs, which are open to international students, have helped shape many a sporting career, including soccer players.
For its part, Tottenham, a premier English club, will bring its experience and expertise in spotting and grooming young soccer talent, and will contribute its coaches to training sessions.
The soccer-inclusive programs will enroll up to 100 students in the first year, and run over a five-year period of cooperation. The program will be offered on a full-fee paying basis, and will cost around AUD$15,000($10,630) annually.
The intensive programs will include 16 to 20 hours of soccer training each week for 36 weeks a year, including individualized and group training. The training sessions will be woven around regular academic timetables. Eventually, they will pitch students in local, national and international soccer competitions.
"We welcome Chinese students to apply for this program. We know President Xi Jinping is a great supporter of soccer in China and wants to see Chinese soccer play a major role on the world stage," said Alex Frino, deputy vice-chancellor of global strategy at the University of Wollongong.
"This program provides an internationally competitive environment. While supporting students with a high-quality educational foundation, it also provides them with world-class soccer technical training, cross-cultural learning, and international communication skills.
"This will better cultivate, educate and inspire talented young football players to make their mark more quickly in the increasingly competitive soccer world."
China's aim is to have 20,000 middle schools and primary schools offer soccer training by 2020, and 50,000 such schools by 2025. Such schools will guarantee one soccer class per week for students, according to a plan announced by the State Council, China's Cabinet.
"Tottenham has a fantastic track record in developing young players, and the university has a long history of sporting success," said Andy Rogers, head of the club's global soccer development program.
"We welcome young people from all over the world, especially from China, who are interested in soccer to apply for this program. We will be taking the authentic methods, the appeal and strength of Tottenham, to the University of Wollongong, and we look forward to developing the game with all the participants."