A young boy wearing a blue sports tshirt with logos on it stands with a soccer pitch with players on it behind him

Adelaide schools signing deals with clubs to attract students

Adelaide private schools are signing deals with international and national sporting clubs as part of what a leading academic says is an “arms race” to attract students.

Key points:

South Australian schools are signing deals with sports clubs in a bid to attract students
Rostrevor College has a partnership with Manchester City, while Sacred Heart College has one with Celtic Football Club
The Adelaide 36ers basketball club has partnerships with multiple schools

While schools have traditionally used football — through scholarships and ex-AFL players as coaches — to lure sport-loving students, the net is now expanding to include other sports, with soccer and basketball major focuses.

“They’re competing and they’re competing hard within quite an aggressive market, and so they will increasingly grow more diverse or cater to different sports in order to get a bigger piece of the pie,” Deakin University senior education lecturer Emma Rowe said.

One of the most high-profile examples is the official partnership between Rostrevor College and Manchester City, one of the world’s largest soccer teams.

Rostrevor College has a partnership with Manchester City FC.(ABC News: Matthew Smith)

The college has been running the soccer program for year 7 students and will expand to years 8 and 9 next year.

“I like to see that we can offer a broad curriculum, and some of the extra things we’re doing such as the Manchester City program just complements what we’re doing,” principal Shana Bennett said.

Signing the deal for an undisclosed financial fee is already paying off.

“We’ve certainly seen a spike in the interest for people coming to the college to be part of the program, and also a real spike in those that are coming to do our football clinics during the school holidays,” Ms Bennett said.

Training under the Manchester City badge was a definite lure for year 7 student Marcel El Hami.

A young boy wearing a blue sports tshirt with logos on it stands with a soccer pitch with players on it behind him

Rostrevor College student Marcel El Hami.(ABC News)

“Man City’s one of the best teams in the world and I thought it’d help me improve,” he said.

The college brought out English coach Jamie Lee on a two-year contract to oversee the project.

Lee has worked with Manchester City’s owners, City Football Group, for more than six years, working in countries including China, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

“Instead of doing their usual PE [physical education] sessions, they’ll come out here with me in their City gear and we’ll just do football,” he said.

But it is not just soccer that Rostrevor has added to its sporting repertoire.

The college has also formed a partnership with National Basketball League club the Adelaide 36ers.

A group of girls with basketballs smiling, with their principal standing behind the group.

Sacred Heart College principal Daniel Lynch (centre) announced a partnership with the Adelaide 36ers at the start of the year.(ABC News: Matthew Smith)

The 36ers have also signed deals with two other private schools, Pulteney Grammar and Sacred Heart College.

Sacred Heart has long been a football powerhouse, producing AFL draftees.

But it has now turned its attention to basketball, and in addition joined forces with the perennially successful Celtic Football Club in Scotland.

Principal Daniel Lynch said the approach was a newer part of the fight to attract students to schools.

“It is an intense battle at times,” he said.

“For us at the moment, our enrolment is really strong,” he said.

“We’ve had significant enquiries for the next few years and things are looking good for us, but you can’t rest on your laurels and expect that’s going to be the case forever.

“We announced the 36ers at the start of this year, and about a month ago the arrangement with Celtic, and both of those generated significant social media response and significant enquiries by way of enrolments.”

A young girl with blonde hair in a ponytail wearing a blue basketball top stands on a basketball court with players behind her

Sacred Heart College student Georgie Thur says the program will give her more opportunities.(ABC News)

Georgie Thur, 12, is already a promising basketball player with district club South Adelaide.

She said the school program could be a critical difference in her development.

“It will benefit a lot, and having so much coaching and help will definitely benefit my game and put me forward to more opportunities,” she said.

The Adelaide 36ers programs are run by club development coach, Michael Lake.

A man with a whistle on a basketball court, motioning to the side.

In addition to giving back to the community, Michael Lake says the program helps unearth future stars.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“It’s an identification method to see what talent is there locally,” he said.

“Obviously we work with the four schools we have, but because of our involvement, we’re also then across schools competitions a little more closely.”

Dr Rowe said the visibility to talent scouts was an important selling point.

“If you go to that particular school it will offer a pathway into the sporting world, you’ll get exposure to more talent scouts,” she said.

“So that’s really what’s sold to parents: ‘If you don’t go to this school, then your kid won’t get those opportunities.’

“The arms race is around facilities. The facilities and resources that the haves have, compared to the have-nots, is quite stark or quite significant and that gap is growing.”

Some public schools are also part of the school sporting landscape.

A woman smiling on a basketball court in a blue top.

Anna Mirasgentis says her school receives enquiries from both public and private school families about their basketball program.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Woodville High School has a soccer academy and has also entered into a partnership with the Adelaide 36ers in an extension of its own Basketball Academy.

Principal Anna Mirasgentis said the basketball focus was a magnet for families and students.

“We get enquiries through students out of zone, both from public and private schools, because of the basketball academy that we’ve established, and I think a lot of it’s word of mouth,” she said.

If basketball’s a passion, then why not? Why not provide them with those equal opportunities?” she said.

A girl in a yellow top playing basketball.

Frankie Fielke says she “loves coming to lessons” because of her school’s 36ers partnership.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Frankie Fielke, 15, said the program had made a real difference.

“It was a surprise that we got this opportunity and we’re all very happy to have had it,” she said.

“I love coming to lessons because of that. I get to push myself more as a player.”

Dr Rowe said attracting the sports dollar was a major contest for private schools, with plenty at stake.

“That’s becoming increasingly important for private schools,” she said.

“That is one plank of how they market to students or to parents.”



Author: Russell White