Hartlepool United and Hartlepool College of Further Education have strengthened a partnership in ways that will benefit the community through exciting projects on and off the pitch.
The two have collectively operated for 287 years in the town and together are now building on a long association by creating fresh opportunities with and without a football.
On top of a restructured football academy, which creates chances for talented players to impress the League Two club’s management, a series of commercial and strategic plans have been put in place.
Pools will host occasional press conferences at the College, while together they will soon launch a new business club in a push to get more of the town’s businesses working together.
The College will also provide a sector-based work academy to recruit matchday staff, creating invaluable work experience and other roles in areas such as hospitality for its students.
The football club will be able to utilise College facilities for numerous activities, including hosting events, while there will be a retail presence and matchday offers for students.
Gary Riches, assistant principal at Hartlepool College, said: “This is about two anchor institutions in the town, with long established histories, coming together.
“It’s vitally important to deliver an education aspect to a professional football club and make it work. We complement each other in several ways. It makes sense in terms of business/commercial growth and to forge greater links within the community.
“A high percentage of staff and students within the College are local people who have an affiliation with the club too. We are literally within a quarter of a mile of one another, so collaboration is far more important than competition.”
Hartlepool United was formed in 1908 and the College has served the area since 1849. They have had strong links for many years but this transformational partnership has been put in place to benefit the wider community.
Rose Stoker, head of operations at the Suit Direct Stadium, said: “We are delighted to strengthen our partnership with Hartlepool College of Further Education.
“Hartlepool United and Hartlepool College are flagship establishments in the heart of our town, working in collaboration will only strengthen the relationship we have, and provide wider opportunities for the community of Hartlepool, to access educational, commercial, business and many more real-world experiences.”
In recent years Hartlepool College has worked with the club to provide a youth development programme which grew to 35 players and two teams last year.
A pathway for the College’s footballers to impress and step up to the club's youth team continues to be put in place as the official Hartlepool United Academy develops with its new category four status.
This strengthened partnership means there will be a drive to enhance matchday experiences and there will be pre-match access and support for the club’s playing staff and management at the College.
Hartlepool’s chief operating officer Stephen Hobin said: “The strong relationship with Hartlepool College is one that the football club has enjoyed over several years and is multi-faceted.
“The partnership is going from strength to strength with two of the largest institutions in Hartlepool building on the relationships of the past and sharing a future vision that benefits the town’s young people, the learners, and creating pathways through football and education.
“It is creating vocational opportunities for our young people, vocational opportunities within the club and also substantial commercial opportunities sharing our contacts and working together as key partners to drive new commercial opportunities for the football club in our quest of self-sustainability.
“This is a true partnership and friendship between both parties who both care passionately about the town and surrounding areas. It's about two parties coming together to create a powerful force, with a powerful marketing capacity to support each other and most importantly our young people.”
And Shaun Hope, the College’s assistant principal, said: “We want to try to open the door to more positivity within the town. We have both been around a long time and Hartlepool is at the heart of what we do.”