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Ulster University is to invest nearly £1million into a major sports programme over the next three years, which will help sport to thrive at all levels in Northern Ireland, from elite athletes and university teams to local schools and community clubs.

As part of this commitment to the development of sport in the region, Ulster University will fund over £300,000 worth of scholarships and will also create nine new Sports Development Officer posts. New partnerships with a number of sporting national governing bodies will also be formed.

Over50 Ulster University students across 14 sports including Gaelic games, hockey, football and golf have been awarded Performance Sport Scholarships for 2016/17. The scholarships provide funding towards the course fees of high performing athletes for one year. The students will benefit from flexible study options as well as specialist sports performance services; these include strength and conditioning coaching, nutritional advice, sports psychology and mentoring.

At a launch event today, the University, in partnership with a range of sporting national governing bodies, also revealed its plans for the new sports development posts. These posts will be responsible for driving forward participation and performance in hockey, athletics, rugby, basketball, football, cricket, golf and Gaelic games, both at Ulster University and in the community.  

Speaking at the event, Ulster University Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon said: “This three-year package of support further cements Ulster University’s reputation as a leading university for sport on the island of Ireland, from our sporting successes to our academic excellence and world-leading research in physical activity and exercise science.

“Along with the scholarships and the creation of the sports development posts we are pleased to announce that Ulster University is now the official Northern Ireland partner of the Irish Football Association’s Girls’ and Women’s Football Academy.

“The IFA will join a number of other sports academies already based across our four campuses, including the Andrew White Cricket Academy and Belfast Met Football Academy. With access to Ulster University’s world-class sporting facilities and expert coaching, these academies will create a pathway for talented young athletes to develop and thrive.”

Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson explained the new academy is a “natural progression” from the Regional Girls’ Excellence Programme, which has been based at the university for the past nine years.

He said the academy will provide players with extra coaching and fitness training at the University’s world-class facilities and will also tap into some of the best coaches and sports scientists in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Mr Nelson added: “Through the Academy at Ulster University we hope to encourage players to stay at home to develop their game as well as receiving education here. We envisage that this will ultimately help to strengthen both our international and domestic teams.”