One of the men behind a planned Leicester free school has said it will be the first of its kind to help youngsters get a foot on the ladder of a career in sport.
Last week a group of education and sporting professionals – backed by the Leicester Tigers – had applied to the Government to create a Leicester Academy of Sport.
It will offer a range of BTEC qualifications for students aged 16 to 19.
Russ Horsley is among those behind the bid, working alongside Matt Pinches, the former head of South Leicestershire College, to get it off the ground.
Mr Horsley has worked within several education settings, including South Leicestershire College, and is also responsible for the daily management of the English Colleges Football Association.
Mr Horsley said: “Although Everton and Derby County football clubs have set up their own free schools, they are clearly far more restrictive in terms of what they deliver.
“Our school will cater for all sports and will aim to give those with an aptitude or passion for it the qualifications to move to the next stage, whether that’s on the field or off it.
“Sport is a huge industry and there are so many careers to go into, from coaching and teaching to performance analysis and fitness advisors.”
He will act as an advisor helping to link sport to the national curriculum.
Leicester Academy of Sport could take up to 150 students in its first year, eventually expanding to 300.
Free schools are funded directly by the Government and do not have to follow the national curriculum if they do not want to.
Mr Horsley had aspirations of becoming a top-class professional footballer but when that did not work out he used his knowledge of sport to make a successful career on the education side.
He said: “It’s not just about getting qualifications. Sport can teach lots of social skills that are transferable. We want to make students employable.
“They will develop leadership skills and build confidence, everything employers are looking for. Sport’s a great leveller – it demands certain standards.”
The group will find out around April if it has been successful in reaching the next stage of the process.
The bid has been endorsed by Leicester Tigers, which will offer its expertise to the free school, including coaches.
A spokesman for the Department for Education confirmed it would be the first application of its type.
They said: “The Free Schools programme is about stimulating the sort of innovative, imaginative projects which would never have seen the light of day otherwise. We look forward to looking at this proposal.”