The partnership will form an elite link between the Black & Whites and Nigeria Rugby League as part of the club’s ever-expanding Centre of Excellence footprint, which now features several regional and international development hubs across the UK and further afield.
The club’s development programmes are not only blossoming in Hull, following record breaking participant numbers and a new development hub at the University of Hull, but this is now further enhanced by regional and national development centres.
On the back of a regional Centre of Excellence pilot scheme in Cumbria, in partnership with Whitehaven RLFC, the club have now launched a development centre in Nigeria, one of the fastest growing areas for rugby league participation with thousands of players now participating in the sport.
The agreement will see the Airlie Birds work alongside the NRLA to deliver an exclusive development,
education and talent ID programme on the African continent, with the aim of developing and recruiting talented Nigerian athletes, and building a clear pathway for NRLA players into an elite sporting environment.
Regular camps, both in Nigeria and for Nigerian-born players in the UK, will focus on areas including conditioning, coach development, nutritional advice, and skill acquisition, with members of the club’s Centre of Excellence staff travelling to Nigeria to support the project overseas.
It is the ambition of the club that the programme will both raise the profile of the sport of Rugby League and increase participation in Nigeria, as well as playing a role in enhancing the Nigeria National Rugby League team, who are currently an RLIF observer nation.
A staff development programme will aim to enhance the capabilities of community coaches in Nigeria, with talent ID camps and weekly grassroots sessions in schools for players aged 14-18 forming a major part of the partnership.
Participants and coaches will also receive Hull FC branded training wear and will play in the club’s famous black and white irregular hooped kit.
The partnership will see the Black & Whites receive regular scouting reports and performance data, allowing them to select the most promising athletes to progress with the club, who will offer unconditional places within the club’s Centre of Excellence programme in Hull and potentially into higher education with the University of Hull, which already boasts a strong Nigerian student population.
The Nigeria hub is set to be the first of several international and regional hubs announced by the Black & Whites over the coming months, with the club set to announce partnerships in two further continents before the end of 2022, as well as three further regional hubs in England.
The Category 1 ‘Outstanding’ rated Centre of Excellence has made significant strides since its formation in 2020, now boasting over 120 Hull-based male and female athletes, including several Rising Stars who are training with the first-team squad, embedding pathways for our Girls sides, and now expanding into international development.
So far this year, the club’s various male and female teams under the age of 18 have lost just three times this season between them, with the club’s academy squad undefeated, whilst the U16 and U14 girls squads have both won their respective leagues as the club builds for the future.
Fittingly, a former Hull FC Academy player, Ade Adebisi, who is currently the Vice President and General Manager of the NRLA, will head up the project in Nigeria.
He said: “We are really excited about this opportunity to work with one of the sport’s most forward-thinking clubs to deliver one of the best Centre of Excellence programmes the sport has seen.
“We were grateful to have several clubs at our disposal, but once we heard from James about the plans for the club, the amazing work they’re already delivering in their region and their plans for further expansion, we jumped at the chance to work with Hull FC.
“I am invested personally in this partnership having played for Hull FC early in my career and having experience first-hand the positive impact this work can have on young people.
“The club will soon boast some of the best facilities in the competition and an unrivalled education pathway and we can see the genuine route through for young Nigeria athletes and students, both migrating from Nigeria and those already based in the UK.”
He added, “This is an exciting partnership that will benefit Nigeria at both an elite and development level as we look to establish ourselves as a significant member of the international rugby league community over the years ahead.”
Hull FC Chief Executive, James Clark, added: “This is another exciting aspect of our long-term strategy to be at the forefront of youth development and talentID for the years ahead.
“We are already seeing the benefit of the time, energy and resources we’re investing in our Centre of Excellence programme in Hull, but this is the first time we have expanded beyond our traditional heartland.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to compliment the work we’re doing locally to not only unearth and attract new talent, but to also support the growth of the game and raise the profile of rugby league in new areas as part of our long-term commitment to developing players and coaches of the future.”