One of the most famous clubs in the world, FC Barcelona, has teamed up with Edinburgh University, writes Grant Jarvie.
On Thursday, representatives from FC Barcelona visited Edinburgh University to mark the beginning of a partnership. The three-year agreement will see both partners sharing knowledge and expertise around football education. It is one of the few agreements between FC Barcelona and a university.
In 2018/19, 429 students from Spain matriculated at Edinburgh, which is home to the third-largest cohort of Spanish students in the United Kingdom.
It is Scotland’s leading university for sport, not simply in terms of student sport rankings, the number of sports clubs, but also in terms of helping Olympians from Eric Liddell to Katherine Grainger combine successful sports careers with higher education. And it was an Edinburgh University law student, John Hope, who in 1824 founded the first organised football club in the world.
The Barcelona delegation was led by Javier Sobrino, head of strategy and innovation FC Barcelona, and Marcos Picalló.
“We are delighted to have signed an agreement with the University of Edinburgh. We recognise the expertise within Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport but also what the university can offer through professional learning,” said Mr Picalló.
Edinburgh is a world leader in online distance learning, with more than a million students engaged in digital courses. It delivered one of the first massive online football courses, Football More than a Game.
The Academy of Sport is one of the few think tanks in the world focused upon sport and, in particular, how sport can help to deliver outcomes for and with local and global communities.
FC Barcelona is not only a very successful sports club but also does a huge amount social work through football, with the club working with disadvantaged communities all over the world.
FC Barcelona has created a sports innovation hub that aims to be the worldwide number one sports industry centre for knowledge and innovation. It offers a range of expertise and qualifications around sports technology, medical and nutritional sciences, social sciences, team sports and performances.
The partnership will deliver one-month courses that provide an introduction to subjects including sports law and ethics. More advanced four-month courses will focus on a broader range of topics, such as sports psychology, sports governance, sports facilitity management, sports nutrition, and sports marketing and communications.
Sport is a powerful enabler and by working with FC Barçelona, the university can reach new communities across the globe. Together, Edinburgh and FC Barcelona are determined to use education to enrich and improve people’s lives, wherever in the world they live.
The two-day visit involved a visit to Easter Road, a range of meetings at the university and a visit to Hampden Park and the Scottish Football Museum. The Scottish Football Association has recently reported that football is worth £1.25bn to Scottish society with key areas being education, health and social cohesion.
A significant amount of work in Scotland focuses upon developing clubs as community assets and the visit to Hampden will allow the Scottish Football Association to show case some of this work as well as learning about the work of FC Barcelona and its Foundation. It was the work of the Foundation together with the international reach of the brand that led to Unicef to work with the foundation. Half of one per cent of players’ salaries goes to the Foundation.
Edinburgh through its Football More than a Game and Education Pass initiatives has been delivering credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing courses in Scottish football stadiums.
The courses have been delivered at Easter Road in partnership with Hibernian Football Club which was recently voted Scotland’s best professional club in the community. Edinburgh is also hoping to develop the course in partnership with Hearts.
Charlie Bennet, chief executive officer of the Hibernian Community Foundation, said: “We are delighted to welcome both FC Barçelona and the University of Edinburgh to Easter Road. We all have a similar commitment in using football to deliver education and look forward to exchanging ideas and learning from each other.”
The three-year partnership, in the first instance, is a great opportunity for both the University of Edinburgh and FC Barcelona to work together, exchange knowledge and work in local and global communities, to advance education through football but potentially do much more.
Professor Grant Jarvie is director of the Academy of Sport at Edinburgh University.