Meet the apprentice whose job it is to inspire the girls to get out and play football.

It’s got to be the ideal career for a young footy fan like Amy, who joined her first club when she was just six.

Now the 21-year-old has helped bring home a sought-after ECFA accreditation star for Bede Sixth Form in Billingham, recognition for her and the college’s efforts to drive standards and participation in the game she loves.

“I never dreamed I could get a job like this,” she said. “And it feels pretty good to have played my part in getting the ECFA star for the college.”

Having grown up with a love for the game, a kick-about comes as second nature to Amy, who plays for Durham Cestria, part of the FA Women’s National League, Northern Division One.  But she said for many youngsters, who might have enjoyed the game when they were small, it’s a sport that is all too often cast aside in their teenage years.

That’s where her role comes in, one of 10 apprentice women’s football development officers recruited by colleges nationally as part of the AoC Sport and FA Women’s Football Apprenticeship programme to increase female participation in football.

Offering football academies both for the girls and the boys through the college’s Institute of Sport and Education (ISE), Bede is no stranger to success on the pitch.  Bede girls topped the table in the North East Colleges’ League in the summer, and also brought home the NECL League cup.

Now, Amy said, they want to double up their efforts and help spread the word that football isn’t just for the competitive and elite players; it can be fun for all. And the ECFA star is proof they’re on the ball.

Bede’s netball academy students are among those already getting on board.  Student Nell, 18, of Redcar, said: “I used to play for a team throughout secondary school, but I stopped during lockdown and the team folded.”

Joining the tournaments at the college was just what she needed to rediscover her love for the game and return to the pitch.

Leah, 17, of Ingleby Barwick, added: “It has definitely been fun to give it a go and Amy has done a great job of promoting it across the college.”

Apprentice football development officer Amy said: “There are so many benefits to playing football, it’s a great way to socialise, meet new people and learn skills to take out into your everyday life. It is things like leading a team and communication, stuff that you wouldn’t think of. Football isn’t as daunting as it seems, ultimately, it’s about having fun.” 

As for the benefits to your health and wellbeing, well they are not to be sniffed at either.

The ECFA Development Framework was created alongside AoC Sport to drive standards in football across further education, with accreditation stars based on four main areas, participation, competition and supporting talent, developing a workforce and engaging with the community.

Bede Sixth Form College’s Institute of Sport and Education lead Ian Hewitt said: “We are so proud of what has been achieved here at Bede and the work Amy and the team have put in to increase participation in football, not just for the girls, but for all students and the wider community. To achieve the ECFA Star is a great testament to those efforts, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”


Amy Richardson Back Left To Right Amber Mae Smith Leah Donnelly Nell Turner Front Left To Right Leah Martin And Amy Richardson Amy Richardson 2
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