‘Pathways to Higher Education’ was a two day event designed specifically for Liverpool Academy U18 footballers, to allow them to explore the opportunities available in higher education - whether this be during or after their football career.
A bespoke academic programme was delivered to the players, in order to give them a taste of lectures and seminars in our department. They also had the chance to meet and socialise with current students and staff and to learn about the benefits of studying at university.
To kick the visit off, Dr Dave Webber – PAIS Teaching Fellow and lifelong LFC fan – presented his research around football and politics, in a keynote lecture entitled: ‘Politics and Power in the People's Game’. The players were challenged to think about the consequences of the increasingly high levels of money, which dominate the football world.
Wednesday morning saw more academic taster sessions, with Trevor McCrisken delivering a mini-lecture on ‘What is politics?’. The lecture set the players up for a choice of taster seminars, led by Nick Vaughan-Williams, Matthew Watson, Juanita Elias, and Steve Kettell. Players and staff engaged with current students and discussed topics ranging from ‘What is the greatest security threat we face?’ to ‘The politics of food poverty’. Particularly provocative was the question posed by Steve: ‘Would the world be better off without religion?’, while Juanita had the players checking the labels of their kit to consider ‘The politics of the clothes we wear’.
Phil Roscoe, Head of Education and Welfare at LFC Academy, joined the players for this visit:
The sessions took the players outside their comfort zone and really made them think about how politics is all around them. The event has also helped the players realise that university teaching is open and accessible, and could be for them”
Following a campus tour led by PAIS student ambassadors, the players and staff took parin a panel discussion, with PAIS students and Warwick footballers, about why they chose to study at university and what their experiences at Warwick have been. PAIS finalist, Abi Awojobi, rounded the session off with a presentation about what studying at university has meant to her.
In the afternoon, it was the turn of the Liverpool players to show us what they do best in an exhibition game at the Cryfield pitches between the Warwick University Men's Football team and Liverpool U18s. A good natured Warwick crowd watched in the glorious sunshine as the university players raised their game, held off relentless attacks, and then took the lead on the break just before half time with a cool finish from captain Alex Roberts!
Warwick took the lead again within a minute of Liverpool equalising in the second half through Mark Claremont. Eventually the fitness and technical ability of the Academy players gave them the advantage as they equalised again then went ahead 3-2.
The referee, Billy Greening, a PAIS MA student in US Foreign Policy, kept firm control of the game throughout and bravely gave a penalty to Liverpool, despite the protests of the Warwick players and fans.
The match ended 4-2 to Liverpool, but the Warwick players did themselves proud and thoroughly entertained the Cryfield crowd and those watching the game live on the big screen in the Piazza.
The two day event was a great success for all involved and both PAIS and LFC Academy see this as the beginning of a long term relationship. We will be doing a follow up event soon, at Rainhill High School, where the Academy players study. A big thanks to all those involved in the two days! The event was very much a team effort, but particular thanks must go to PAIS PhD student Shahnaz Akhter, who works as part of our Outreach team. This outreach event was Shahnaz’s idea and she did much of the planning, room booking, and looking after everyone once the Academy players arrived.