Cardiff Met University Football Club will enter the new season of the Welsh Premier League with a host of academic qualifications and a determination to balance the demands of elite sport and educational endeavours.
Of the twenty members of Cardiff Met FC, all of whom have re-signed for next season, eleven are studying at postgraduate level – either PhD's or Masters programmes, whilst, six final year students receiving results this week have been awarded with first class honours degrees and another four with 2:1 classifications.
Under the guidance of former professional footballer and Director of Cardiff Met Men's Football and Head Coach, Dr Christian Edwards, and Coach, Professor Robyn Jones, the club players continue to prove that they can play at the highest level in Welsh football, whilst at the same time achieving top academic results.
Former professional player with Swansea City, Nott's Forest and Bristol Rovers, Dr Edwards completed a PhD in the Sociology of Coaching last year and is believed to be the first former International footballer in the world to complete a doctorate, although other professional players have done so.
He said: "I believe that football is an intellectual game and I feel very proud of the flood of academic ability within Cardiff Met FC. Our players are primarily focussed on their studies but they manage to invest time, enthusiasm and sporting expertise into the club alongside their structured learning, in order to make a success of this fantastic opportunity.
"We are in a unique position to be able to compete in a National League as a university-based club. Most universities have a football team, but we have a football club, which has been built up slowly and now has the privilege of competing with professional and semi-professional teams in the Welsh Premier League. We don't have a strong fan base, we don't have funding to support the development of our players, but we spend a lot of time together both on and off the pitch – we're a close knit team and we work hard. Our players are learning about, and using the language of sports science, physiology, sociology, psychology etc. day in day out and they are skilled in applying their knowledge to the game.
"The values and beliefs of Cardiff Met FC are at the core of our coaching. Our players are very aware of the opportunity they have to play and promote elite sport, and are conscious of the reasons why they have chosen to be a part of this journey. Our club is a professional set up and members do not take this valuable experience for granted."
Dr Edwards, from Caerphilly, started studying Sport Development and Coaching at Cardiff Met after his professional sporting career at the age of 30, and gained a first class degree. He went on to study towards a Masters in Coaching and completed his PhD to take on a full time teaching and coaching role at the university in 2012.
He continued: "We have a duty of care to look after our players and make them aware of the career paths available to accomplished sports people with academic qualifications. Our players are mindful that a university education can open doors and they have a great appetite for postgraduate study. We are always encouraging of this and support them in every way we can to help them balance the challenges and demands of university life and elite football.
"There are all sorts of opportunities on the football programme here for young people who might not quite make it as professional players. We take football seriously and provide a great grounding for club members."
Twenty six year old Charlie Corsby is Cardiff Met Football Club's longest serving member. He signed up to the club as an undergraduate fresher at eighteen years of age. Now, at twenty six, he is completing his PhD in sports coaching and lecturing on the Sports Coaching and performance modules alongside playing matches in the league.
He said: "It's a great privilege to be able to play football for Cardiff Met FC and be able to challenge ourselves at a high level both on the pitch and in the classroom. We are all incredibly passionate about football, but at the same time, are preparing ourselves for an alternative vocation beyond our playing careers.
"We are very lucky that we can use the university's fantastic training facilities and sporting expertise and we fully intend to make an impression in the Welsh Premier League this season."