University and Riverside FC strike new footballing partnership

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Amy Hodgson, Jennifer Ralston, Oliver Barr and Alex Jeanes celebrate Stirling partnership.
University of Stirling and Riverside players joined forces to celebrate the new partnership (L-R): Amy Hodgson, Jennifer Ralston, Oliver Barr and Alex Jeanes.

An innovative sporting partnership between the University of Stirling and Riverside Football Club is thriving – delivering benefits and creating opportunities for young people in the city.

The University – Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence – opened its doors to Riverside last August, when the Stirling-based club was looking for a larger facility for training and matches. Nine months on, all 26 Riverside teams – comprising more than 450 players – call the University home.

The unique partnership – believed to be one of the first of its kind in Scotland – is enabling boys and girls as young as six to train and compete at world-class sporting facilities, while breaking down barriers and introducing them to a university environment. Extending the University’s reach into the local community, the symbiotic relationship also has the potential to inspire and create pathways for Riverside players to develop and progress to senior level, including with the University’s teams.

Furthermore, both organisations are seeking to explore other opportunities that will enable the University’s students to gain experience with Riverside in everything from sports coaching and social media to committee membership and sports finance.

Riverside Chairman Grant Stobbart and David Bond, Head of Performance Sport at the University of Stirling Grant Stobbart, Chairman of Riverside Football Club, and David Bond, Head of Performance Sport at the University of Stirling.

David Bond, Head of Performance Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “We are delighted that our new partnership with Riverside Football Club continues to go from strength to strength. Through this collaboration, Riverside is now based at the University – both for training and matches – and their footballers are benefitting from our world-class sports facilities, including access to our gym and swimming pool.

“There’s so much more potential to unlock – and this is just the very first stage of it. For example, we are now exploring how we can work together to support the development of our student sports coaches; build pathways for Riverside’s young footballers to progress to the senior ranks; and create placement opportunities that enable our community to get involved with local grassroots football.

“Through this partnership, we have made Riverside Football Club part of our community and we’re glad to have them here. We’re excited to see what we can achieve together.”

Riverside players use University of Stirling gym equipment.

Riverside's Steven Robertson using the University's gym, while fellow players (L-R) Archie Skinner, Caitlyn Philpott and Rebecca Galletly watch on.

Riverside Football Club has been running since 1988 – starting in the Riverside area of Stirling, before moving to Kings Park, and later Haws Park in Bridge of Allan. In August last year, all of its teams moved to the University of Stirling – from the boys’ and girls’ teams, through to the men’s over 35s. For five months of the year, the teams are using the University’s facilities seven days a week.

This year, the club’s girls’ section – which includes players up to the age of 18 – celebrates its 10th anniversary. Riverside and the University are currently working on plans to put in place pathways that will support players to make the transition from girls’ football into senior women’s football.

Grant Stobbart, Chairman of Riverside Football Club, said: “Having all our teams based here at the University of Stirling makes a massive difference. The coordination and logistics are obviously much easier – but the real benefit comes in the quality of the facilities. This is Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and the facilities our players have access to are world class – it’s an incredible opportunity for them.

“We have been approached by senior people within Scottish football who are interested to find out more about the partnership we have established here. There is a real interest in this model – where grassroots clubs and universities can work closely to introduce children to elite facilities at an early age. If others followed suit, it could have a real positive impact for football development in Scotland.”

Reflecting on the potential educational benefits of the new partnership, Grant said: “Our footballers have Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence on their doorstep – they are now training and playing their matches here. Why would they not want to stay here, to learn and to play sport?”

Riverside teams train on campus.

Twenty-six teams from Riverside Football Club - comprising 450 players - train and play matches at the University.

Riverside’s Club Secretary Laura MacMillan added: “It’s about breaking down barriers. This partnership exposes our children and young people to university; it lets them know what it feels like to come onto campus and experience this environment – it’s aspirational.”

The University of Stirling has held the designation of Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence since 2008. It runs a number of scholarship programmes across many sports – including football, swimming, golf and tennis – and many of its athletes compete at the highest levels of their sports; including at the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. Those on football scholarships at the University compete at a high level – with the men playing in the Lowland League, the fifth tier of Scottish football, and the women in the Scottish Women’s Premier League 2.

For more information on University of Stirling Sport, visit the website.

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