Football Federation Australia (FFA) and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) today announced a major sponsorship agreement with Open Universities Australia (OUA) to increase continuing higher education opportunities for footballers.
The partnership supports the My Football Career program, a joint FFA/PFA initiative designed to assist professional footballers to become proactive life and career managers.

As part of the two year sponsorship, OUA will provide 10 scholarships to professional footballers competing in the Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League, National Youth League (NYL) or other international leagues.

The OUA ‘Come Study’ Football Scholarship Program is designed to assist elite athletes pursue their education goals alongside their playing careers.

FFA Chief Executive Officer, Ben Buckley said; “Creating viable career pathways for our talented footballers is an important priority for the growth of the game in Australia.”

“Education initiatives like this agreement with OUA will benefit not only the players but also the sport in the long term as more football minded people inside and outside of the sport move into professional careers.” Mr Buckley said.

Westfield Matilda and Westfield W-League star Sarah Walsh has been appointed an Education Ambassador for the partnership.

Sarah Walsh said her involvement with OUA would assist her to juggle her football commitments in Australia with Sydney FC and internationally with the Westfield Matildas and Boston Breakers in the US Women’s Professional Soccer League.

“With the amount of time I spend playing football for the Matildas, locally and professionally overseas, it is very difficult for me to complete any kind of traditional study. OUA enables me to study online and gives me the flexibility I need to pursue both passions at the same time,” Ms Walsh said.

“I am honoured to be representing OUA as ambassador and look forward to sharing the benefits online education provides for all professional footballers and their support teams.”

The positive effects of education and off-field interests on playing performance and career duration have been detailed in a recent Australian Sports Commission and Australian Institute of Sport study*.

The study of 143 elite athletes found that 72 per cent of those surveyed thought that their sporting performance had benefited from them undertaking education or employment during their sporting careers. More than 90 per cent believed these nonsporting activities helped to extend the length of their on-field careers.

PFA Chief Executive, Brendan Schwab, said; “Currently 20% of Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League and NYL footballers are integrating tertiary study with their elite amateur or professional football careers and OUA will provide greater flexibility and opportunity for all tertiary study minded players.”

OUA General Manager of Business Development, Cratis Hippocrates, said; “OUA is excited to partner with FFA and PFA and bring world-class, education and training opportunities to professional and elite amateur footballers.”

“As a member of the Elite Athlete Friendly Universities network, OUA recognises the challenges athletes face combining education, career and a personal life with a high performance-sporting career. OUA enables students to fit study into their schedules, rather than following a set timetable, so it’s ideal for elite athletes,” Mr Hippocrates said.

PFA Harry Kewell Medalist Mitch Langerak highlighted the importance of tertiary study portability for players, following his recent transfer to German giants Borussia Dortmund.

“The life of a footballer is one of constant transition. There is regular travel, club changes, injuries to cope with and in my case right now, a new culture to understand. The Open Universities Australia study model is perfect for accommodating the ever changing lifestyle of a professional athlete,” Mr Langerak said.

Under the sponsorship agreement, OUA will also:
Fund an education ambassador program to support FFA and PFA members taking up study
Provide footballing students with special benefits including: priority enrolment, textbook vouchers and six hours with a free online tutor to provide additional academic support
* Nathan Price, Life out of the Limelight: Understanding the Nonsporting Pursuits of Elite
Athletes, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Vol1, No 3, 2010

About Open Universities Australia (OUA)
OUA is the national leader in quality online tertiary education, enrolling over 144,000 students since 1993. We provide access to over 1000 units and 90 qualifications taught by 18 leading universities and other tertiary education providers around the country in: arts, humanities and social sciences, business, education, health, information technology, law, and science.