Bournemouth University (BU) is proud to be the official Higher Education partner of AFC Bournemouth (AFCB), who have just achieved the highest ever league finish in the club’s history, in their inaugural season in the English Premier League (EPL). While the university already had an established partnership with the Club, promotion to the EPL in 2015 brought a new dimension and unprecedented level of international interest for both the club and the university.
During what has been a unique season, with the name of Bournemouth becoming part of the global phenomenon of the EPL – with 1.2 billion fans worldwide, including 174 million EPL fans in China and 89.3 million in India (source Repucom survey May 2015 - EPL and Sportcal Insight), the university has worked in partnership with the club to raise its international reach and bring a range of benefits to students and the local community.
BU has an increasingly global outlook - evidenced when BU was named for the first time as one of the Top 200 most international universities in the 2016 Times Higher Education World University Rankings - and the international aspect of the partnership was a key focus of activities across the 2015/16 season.
This started when the university invited over 50 students from 20 different countries to the stadium for a pre-season game, for most this was their first experience of watching an EPL team. Commenting on the visit, BU student Oge Nwadiliora from Nigeria said, “I am not a sport lover and I have never watched any live professional sport in my life, today is my first experience and I would say that, from today, AFC Bournemouth is my team and I will keep supporting them”.
During the season live TV games, including the home win against Manchester United, featured BU’s mandarin pitch-side signage; EPL matches are broadcast in 212 territories by 80 broadcasters. TV audience for EPL games is 4.7bn, and the number of homes reached is 643m (source EPL). BU signage was also seen on the popular global FIFA16 game.
Following the UK-China Government Summit in September 2015, BU was one of only three successful bids (from 35 UK universities) to host the British Council China UK Football Study Programme. The partnership with AFC Bournemouth was a key factor in creating a bespoke three month programme that will see 60 coaches from schools and universities in China study at BU this summer, as well as working with the football club.
AFC Bournemouth Chairman Jeff Mostyn commented, “Having 60 coaches from China studying in Bournemouth this summer is a great example of the international impact and benefits to both ‘Premier League’ organisations from the university and football club working in partnership.”
A range of employability opportunities have also been a feature of the partnership. For example BU student Chloe Tape has been on a year-long paid placement with the AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust, working on national projects like the Premier League school sport programme and female football development. Chloe said, “It is wonderful to be learning new skills and providing more opportunities for girls to take part in sport across the area. The experience of working in professional sport during my placement year will be a very valuable addition to my CV.”
During the season there have been a number of opportunities for students to gain skills and work experience, such as working as a student ambassador on match days. One student ambassador, Glebs Kiselovs, a Business and Marketing student, said about his season at AFCB, “The chance to work on match day operations at a Premier League club is an excellent opportunity for me. The EPL is known across the world and this experience will be valuable in whatever I do after university.”
Glebs has also written a blog about his experience of working at the club this season.
BU also wanted to raise its profile and increase community engagement during the season and had the idea of creating targeted impact around a specific game. The Club agreed this innovation and in October 2015 the ‘BU Big Match’ was developed into a week of events involving schools and the local community, as well as BU staff, students and alumni.
The AFC Bournemouth vs Tottenham Hotspur game in October 2015 was designated the ‘BU Big Match’. BU ran a week of events before the game, including taking BU alumni and club Commercial Director Rob Mitchell to one of the local schools the university works with, Queen Elizabeth’s in Wimborne, to raise aspirations. Over lunchtime Rob talked to a packed hall of over 60 pupils and teachers about the opportunities he found from going to university. The event was well attended by males - a target group that national figures show are less likely to apply to university than females.
The ‘BU Big Match’ week also included a free public lecture on the impact of sport in healthcare at the Vitality Stadium and a volunteering link up with BU students and Care South, which saw students accompanying residents from a Care South home in Ferndown to the BU Big Match. On match day itself the BU student band entertained thousands of spectators outside the stadium and was so popular the Club have invited them back next season.
Commenting on the volunteering aspect of the BU Big Match Chloe Schendel-Wilson, Students’ Union Bournemouth University (SUBU) President said, “Students are involved in a wide variety of ways in the local community making a positive difference to the area in which they are studying and opportunities like this also increase students’ understanding of the wider community.”
A video was made to show at half-time during the BU Big Match – covering the week of BU Big Match activities and is also available on YouTube.
Commenting on the partnership Professor John Vinney, Vice-Chancellor of Bournemouth University, said, “It has been a pleasure to follow AFC Bournemouth this season, and to see Bournemouth celebrate its football team and their continued success. BU has also received international recognition this year, as one of the top 200 most international universities in the world and also as one of the top 150 young universities in the world, and we share AFC Bournemouth’s pride as we also grow our reputation and our standing.
"It has been great to see the university and the football club work together in partnership, and I am pleased that this partnership will continue through the summer as we host a specially developed course for Chinese football coaches. Our partnership has been of benefit to both parties, and the local community, and I personally want to add my congratulations to AFC Bournemouth for a successful maiden year in the Premier League.”
To see the partnership in action, visit Bournemouth University’s Pinterest board for a visual view of the season in pictures.