McNelis backs transition year football programme for schools

Former mayor says pilot programme can help establish "a successful, buoyant, and viable domestic league"

Football plays "a vital role in our community", as it is the international game, and in that role it can "bring people together from all ages and walks of life and offers many opportunities".

This is the view of Labour Galway City West councillor, Niall McNelis, who was speaking about the Labour Party's proposal calling for the creation of a transition year programme in participating schools to develop a football academy structure.

"We are all familiar with the idea of rugby and GAA schools but more could be done to support schools where football is more popular and support young adults who may want to pursue a career in it," he said. "That’s why Labour is proposing a new programme for transition year students in secondary schools providing football academies, based on existing models including Stephen Elliot’s Improtech academy in the UK."

The plan envisages that intensive football coaching would be provided in schools in tandem with regular schoolwork and progress towards qualifications. Labour argues that such approaches in other countries has proven, not only to improve football ability, but also school attendance, and career pathways for the young people involved.

'A more engaged football learning structure embedded in the Irish education system will provide a bedrock for a domestic football industry'

“Irish football has many challenges with 30 per cent of professional players in the League of Ireland having only a Junior Certificate qualification, and weak linkages with the education system compared to other mainstream team sports. We also know that too much of the financial and emotional investment amongst Irish football fans is based in England – their teams, their coaching structures, their players with Irish heritage.”

Creating a football industry is critical in Ireland, according to former Galway United board member Cllr Mc Nelis.

“By rolling out this pilot programme proposal, we can work towards building a domestic Irish football industry and establish a successful, buoyant, and viable domestic league.” he added.

“We estimate that the pilot programme costs would be approximately €50,000 per school annually and would be financed directly through a small 0.25 per cent increase in the betting levy that would raise an estimated €11 million. This would fund over 200 secondary schools to take part including some here locally.

“A more engaged football learning structure embedded in the Irish education system will provide a bedrock for a domestic football industry and improve the potential for national sides to improve into the future.”


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