x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Bolton Wanderers open sports institute in Sharjah

Talented children will be sent to train at the English club, and that the club use "football for the benefit of good".

SHARJAH // Gifted young footballers will be able to hone their skills here or even in England while receiving an education, now that the Pro League club Sharjah have partnered with the English Premier League side Bolton in a community development programme.

The launch of the Bolton Wanderers Institute of Sport (BWIS) in Sharjah was announced this week by Phil Gartside, the chairman of the Premier League club.

The partnership will see Sharjah open their doors to locals and expatriates who are keen on pursuing their academic duties and football careers at the same time.

Experts from the BWIS will be on hand to guide them, and the children showing enough football talent will be sent to England to train and study at Bolton.

"Sharjah are not just passionate about football, but also passionate about the benefits of football in the way that football can deliver something back to the community," Gartside said. "We are a small Premier League team compared to some of the bigger ones that obviously have a lot more resources and larger fan base than we have. So it's important for us that we engage with our local community. In the last two or three years, we've discovered how powerful it is to be able to give community programmes to local people, and we've gone further afield from there and delivered it internationally, as well.

"We are developing programmes now that we want to share with other people … like Sharjah and that's why we are here."

Sir David Richards, the chairman of the Premier League who has also came to the UAE for the launch of the Institute, described Bolton's community programmes as some of the most "progressive" in English football.

"Phil and Bolton are very much leaders in the UK in community education, welfare and health," Richards said. "The Premier League have supported that programme with Bolton and other clubs, but Bolton actually deliver courses that help kids today in every conceivable way."

Richards said that Bolton "use football for the benefit of good; they use it to take kids out of crime. They teach kids how to get B-Techs and diplomas to take them to university through football".

He added: "They are able to develop communities for the long-term benefit of our clubs because, at the end of the day, it's about what you do in the community and what you deliver in the community that makes a difference."

Richards said that the BWIS could "make a difference" in the lives of young people, "but can also develop them in sports, education and health, and that's the aim - to bring our experiences to Dubai and Sharjah and say, 'Look, we are here, we'd like to help, we'd like to see if we could take you where you want to go on this journey to helping the kids and the families in the community.' So that's what we are here for."

The institute in Sharjah is the first club partnership entered into by Bolton, although they have worked outside England, including in the United States and Canada.

The programme is expected to start in December with a two-week course, and should they find a top football talent, he will be able to go to Bolton to hone his skills and continue his studies.

"The model is to design education courses that are using football as the method of engagement," said James Tucker, director of education of Sporting Chances, which helped bring the BWIS to Sharjah.

Students will study at "Level 1" for one-week or two-week periods. "If you have one or two students that are very talented at football, then they can progress and come on to a one-year programme, which is delivered in the UK at the club itself," Tucker said.

"So there is a real mixture of opportunities for the students to come and be engaged through football."