If there’s one thing the nation learnt over the summer, it’s that women’s football is no longer a second-tier, ‘irrelevant’, quality-lacking game. The historic Euro’s win in July sparked an explosion of unprecedented media attention, public interest and commercial revenue for women’s football, and the effects are already being felt in UCFB Wembley’s Women’s Academy.

Having successfully launched a Women’s Summer Cup less than a month after football (finally) came home, and with plans to continue their expansion to play against professionals as well as in the BUCS league, the Academy are hoping for one of their strongest seasons yet.

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But, as James Gibson, Head of the Academy, is quick to point out, the beauty of the Academy is its inclusivity, combing those seriously pursuing a career in the professional game with those who primarily wish to participate for fun.

He told UCFB: “What’s your aspiration? What do you want to achieve? Some people want a future career in the football [industry], some want a future career as a player, some just want to enjoy it.

“What we try and do at the university is cater for everybody. We’ve got players in now who are training with pro clubs, we’ve also got players in who haven’t played with them and just want to participate and enjoy. We think we can cater for both within the programme that we offer.”

By removing the heavy weight of expectation of professional leagues, but maintaining an intense, rigorous training programme, players are able to focus intently on the technicalities of their game, with all academic work organised around Academy commitments.

Anya Kinnane, BA (Hons) Physical Education alumni, added:  “It was a lot of freedom, where you can express yourself without the outside pressures, where if you make a mistake it’s all your fault. I’ve been in those situations in higher up leagues, so it was a really nice difference to what I was doing. I could be calm, express myself, and be friendly with everyone. It’s just a great environment to be in.”

The uniqueness of the Academy extends beyond its deliberate lack of exclusivity, as an innovative approach to training is also adopted. The expert coaches, many of whom have worked in the Premier League, place an unusual emphasis on each specific player, refusing to view them as an anonymous part of a team.

James explained: “We try to work with individuals – the team is put together to help the individuals within the team. Whereas often with university football, within the BUCS (British University’s College System) setup, is team-based. We need that, and the players enjoy that, but what’s important for us is that individuals enjoy it. We plan, with every single individual, and we sit down with each individual – that’s perhaps something we do that isn’t widespread yet."

Find out more about UCFB’s Academies.