The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League is set to become the first in English football to launch a youth league and academy combining football with further education.
The NPL Football Academy opens its doors to its first intake of 200 students in September after being officially sanctioned by the Football Association and backed by Euromatech, the global training provider run by Marwan Koukash, the owner of the Salford Red Devils.
An initial pilot programme will see students aged 16-18 at ten clubs studying for a BTEC Level 3 in Sport on two year courses as well as working with FA licensed coaches on a daily basis and competing in the Evo-Stik NPL Youth League and national competitions led by the FA Youth Cup.
The programme will run alongside existing youth set-ups at participating clubs, offering the best of each year’s intake the chance to play senior Non-League football at the likes of Mossley, FC United of Manchester, Mickleover Sports, Radcliffe Borough, Leek Town and Lancaster City.
Recruitment to fill the 20 places available at each club gets underway this week along with the launch of the official website at www.nplfootballacademy.co.uk.
The initiative is expected to double in size the following season, will be regionalised and crucially, will also generate a welcome new income stream for clubs with students learning and training on site for 18-20 hours per week.
Evo-Stik NPL Chairman Mark Harris said: "We are proud to be leading the way again with the backing of the FA and the expertise of Euromatech. There are many academies and numerous youth leagues but the NPL Football Academy is the first to combine both.
"The NPL Football Academy will create a pool of player talent for clubs to draw upon and benefit from directly as well offering young people a fantastic path into the sporting industry through the qualifications and the real experience our clubs will be delivering.
"Not every student will go on to a career as a player and together with greater community engagement for the clubs, they'll also be playing a vital role in introducing the next generation of administrators and volunteers into sport and we hope, Non-League football."