Leigh Centurions are pleased to confirm that they are entering a partnership with Leigh College, based at Leigh Sports Village, and are looking to form a Category 3 Academy and a reserves side for the academic year 2017/2018 which will be effective for the 2018 season.

Club officials including owner Derek Beaumont, Operations Director Steve Openshaw and Assistant Coach Kieron Purtill have had productive meetings with Leigh College’s Assistant Principal Michelle Fisher to develop the initiative.

To assist the success in this development pathway, the Club have offered advice and support to a vibrant new independent fundraising group, established by a group of Centurions supporters and businesses with the primary intention to raise funds to support youth development. The Tommy Sale MBE Youth Development Programme is being launched at the opening home game of our Betfred Super League Season against Leeds Rhinos this evening.

Praising the initiative, Derek Beaumont commented “The sole purpose from my point of view, and that of the board is to be able to attract the best local juniors and offer them not just the sole aims of a rugby club, but to also improve them as people and ensure they pay attention from day one in preparation for life after rugby or indeed failing to make it at the elite level.

“I am passionate about that aspect – it is important to me and I think a key point in attracting young players. It is also important that all monies raised from the Tommy Sale Development group are ring fenced and purely used for youth development. This investment would be added to by the Club. I would like to thank everyone involved in the Group for their involvement, enthusiasm and professional approach, and look forward to it being a pivotal part of securing Leigh Centurions long term future”.

Further details about the group are available at www.tommysaleyouth.co.uk.

Kieron Purtill said: “This is an important development for the Club and the community and one of the immediate bi-products of achieving Betfred Super League status is to build the infrastructure around the playing side. The aim is to create a pathway to our first team but also taking into account the person and providing an education so we can better prepare the player from a rugby point of view and on a personal level for life away from the sport.

“The formation of an academy will strengthen our already excellent links with the local community clubs and as part of that Embed the Pathway sessions with U14s, U15s and U16s players will be delivered together with physical literacy and coach education sessions.”

He added: “The re-introduction of a reserves side is to strengthen the pathway between the academy and the first team and also to provide first team squad members with an effective means of maintaining form and fitness or help those coming back from injury. The ultimate goal is to have a team made up primarily of local players and to inspire the next generation of players and supporters, run a cost effective club and provide an excellent pathway for players in and out of the club.

“Hopefully the Category 3 academy status will be confirmed soon and the College can begin to recruit students using the Leigh Centurions logo and the incentive that they will be monitored by the club. In addition we are looking to forge other links with departments in the College including media, marketing, analysis and many other important skills that combine to make an effective Betfred Super League club.”

Michelle Fisher, Assistant Principal of Leigh College said “We are delighted to partner with Leigh Centurions. The Academy will be linked to the College’s Rugby pathways and our students will have the opportunity to work alongside players and coaches at Leigh Centurions, opening doors to their future careers.”

Leigh Centurions Operations Director Steve Openshaw said: “Whilst the efforts of the last few years have now achieved Betfred Super League status, the Board have long been aware that focus on long term stability is essential to create a fully sustainable Club.

“Our 2014 Strategic Review highlighted our ambitions for youth development and we fully intend to deliver them, but in order to do so our primary objective of reaching Super League had to been met first. We shall continue to work hard to maintain that status and certainly do not take it for granted.

“However, it is clear we are now at the next stage of our development as a Club and since Kieron joined us on a full-time basis he has played an integral role in this exciting initiative. Kieron is highly respected and has the skill sets, knowledge, experience and passion to drive it forward.

“We fully understand and agree with our loyal fans that for far too long there has been insufficient opportunity for local youngsters to progress through the Club’s ranks. With the new pathway we are establishing, and with the support of everyone involved, including the local community, that should eventually be a thing of the past.

“The opportunities also offered by Leigh College form a key part of this initiative and compliment so many of these ambitions for life not just within rugby but out of it, too. It will take a few years to establish a full pathway from youth to first team as many top youngsters are already with other clubs, but we have to start somewhere and this exciting initiative is one that we know our fans are deeply passionate about”.