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Strollers in a different League

Cliftonville Strollers will this season compete in the new Premiership Academy League.

Launched by the NI Football League this week, the Academy League will see the introduction of two new development leagues for Under 16 and Under 18 teams to improve the pathway to the existing Under 20 Premiership Development League ahead of the 2018/2019 season.

The Academy League will kick-off on Sunday, September 2 with a special ‘Development Day’ ahead of the League schedule starting for the Under 16 and Under 18 teams the following weekend. The Under 20 League, in which Cliftonville Olympic compete, will continue to mirror the fixtures of the senior Danske Bank Premiership schedule.

NI Football League Development Manager, Steven Mills, said: “The Danske Bank Premiership is increasingly becoming a hotbed of local young talent which is evident following the progress of players like Gavin White, Bobby Burns and Paul Smyth alongside the growing number of Premiership players regularly featuring in Northern Ireland’s Under 21 international squad.

“The Academy League aims to enhance this further by improving the pathway for talented young players and give them the best opportunity to develop into senior players within the NI Football League.”

Over the next few years, the Academy League aims to create an environment that encourages youth development in Premiership clubs through improved support and meaningful partnerships, including:

  • Development days and workshops to support player & coach education
  • A scholarship programme that combines formal education and additional training
  • Ability for players to play up and down age bands
  • The development of recognised Academy criteria in a Northern Ireland context
  • Better partnership with key stakeholders in youth football