Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light has become the first club in the North East to offer a football and education scholarship.
The organisation is offering teenagers a chance to further their education while representing the club in the National Premier League Football League.
The programme will start in September, giving 16-year-olds the option to complete their academic studies alongside developing their football skills.
Martin Jones, 50, Project Co-ordinator and Football Coach, is running the scholarship at Sunderland.
He said: “We, at the Foundation, are very happy that this programme is the first in the North East to offer playing against other professional clubs across the country.
“We will be helping each player complete their BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in sports Development, Coaching and Fitness.
“We hope for each player to explore the possibility of extending their learning with Sunderland University.
“Using football as a learning tool will help them enjoy the education.
“Each player will be part of a premiership football club and wear the exact same colours as a full-time scholar at the academy.”
Mr Jones previously worked with Plymouth Argyle and is hoping the scholarship will prove to be just as successful as it was in the South West.
He added: “Many players develop and become very good players; many carry on to universities across the country, a couple gaining a football scholarship in America, with a couple making professional football.
“Sunderland could easily match this, but getting the programme started is going to be the hardest job, as getting players to sign up to a new programme is always hard.”
Mark Lovell, 32, Head of Community, a colleague of Jones’ at Plymouth said: “If you enrol on the Level 3 BTEC programme at college you have to identify a work placement and get taught at the college.
“Through the club, you can undertake units based at a work base, which makes it more enjoyable, enabling you to play under professional coaches.”
Mr Jones revealed talks were ongoing with different colleges in the North East to find partners for the scholarship.
He said: “We have other colleges who would like to be joint with this programme so we are in meetings to see what is best for the players.”