The Professional Footballers’ Association Northern Ireland is to join forces with the world’s leading sports scholarship agency, FirstPoint USA, to expand its player support services for its membership.
The exciting new partnership will see FirstPoint provide advice and guidance to academy level players from Northern Ireland for talented young male and female footballers considering the option of university or college in the States and offering its comprehensive package for those opting to pursue the soccer scholarship route.
Having already worked in partnership with the PFA in Scotland for the past three years, FirstPoint USA support hundreds of young footballers each year with the transition out of professional academies, for players who miss out on professional contracts or those with ambitions to combine their footballing talents with an academic qualification. FirstPoint also work closely with a number of clubs in England in Scotland, including Fulham, QPR and Ross County, as well as supporting academy players through their partnership with The Football League.
Led by All-American University of Cincinnati soccer Hall of Famer Andrew Kean, FirstPoint USA have worked with more than 30,000 student-athletes globally since being founded in 2001, securing in excess of $300m in scholarship funding and recruiting on behalf of the leading collegiate sports team in the States, including the likes of Penn State, Wake Forrest and Harvard University.
PFA Northern Ireland support players across the country in areas such as mental health and wellbeing, education and responsible gambling, and were keen to expand their service provision to include the increasingly popular route of the collegiate soccer sector in the States.
“It’s well known that the percentage of players making it from academy to the professional game is extremely low, and we were keen to ensure that Northern Irish footballers have other options to pursue if a contract isn’t offered to them.” said PFA Northern Ireland’s Michael Carvill.
“Attaining a soccer scholarship in the States gives players a fantastic option to consider and we’re now starting to see a number of footballers playing in the top professional leagues, who have benefitted from playing in the USA, whilst having a degree to fall back on. The training and playing facilities in the States are incredible and it’s certainly something for players to think about when transitioning out of their club. We’re delighted to be working with the team at FirstPoint USA, who can pass on their valuable insights and experience to our members.”
Replicating the service they provide in Scotland, FirstPoint USA will deliver presentations and webinars to the PFA NI membership, offer individual club visits and work jointly to stage an exit trial with US coaches in attendance.
Former Aberdeen and Hibs defender Stuart McCaffrey, now Director of Football at FirstPoint USA, welcomed the new partnership:
“It’s great to have PFA Northern Ireland on board with us as a partner and we’re excited to be working with a new organization in helping more players in that transition phase of their career. We describe the US as offering the best of both worlds, giving talented young players the chance to continue playing at a high level, while studying for a degree and having an education to go on and pursue a different career away from football.
A football scholarship in the States really is a life-changing opportunity, and we’ve seen many great examples of players going onto play with some of the best college team in the country and progress into a great job through their degree.”
For more information on PFA Northern Ireland, click here.