MORE businesses are being urged to follow AFC Bournemouth’s lead by drawing on the skills of Bournemouth University’s students and academics.

The university provides the Premier League club with expertise across a range of disciplines including sports science, marketing, research, coaching, physiotherapy and media.

Bournemouth University (BU) students first helped out 11 years ago when the Cherries could barely pay staff, a breakfast networking event held by the AFC Business club heard.

AFC Bournemouth commercial director Rob Mitchell, a BU graduate, forged links when he arrived at the Cherries in 2008 and the university has been the club’s higher education partner since 2013.

“One of the first partnerships I wanted to forge was with the university because of the resources here, the students, the academics – the support that the university could give would be boundless,” he told a 70-strong audience at BU’s Fusion building on the Talbot campus.

A number of students have gone on to work at the club, he said. “It has been a bit of a career path for them,” he added.

There are also player appearances at BU, with guest talks, special topics and links with equality and diversity and mental health and wellbeing.

BU supports AFC Bournemouth’s girls’ football programme as part of the club’s drive to increase female participation in the game.

Businesses heard how the football club and university teamed up on a coaching programme for 180 Chinese students, over three years, as part of China’s bid to be an international force in soccer by 2050.

The university has 20,000 students and estimates it is worth £1million a day to the regional economy.

Jim Andrews, BU’s chief operating officer, said engagement between business and the university was essential if talent is to be kept within the region.

He said: “Something that makes BU distinct is the number of students we have on placement at any one time. We are one of the only institutions to offer a work placement for every undergraduate course.

“The reason we do that is because work placement means better employment outcomes.

“It is really important to us that we work with local companies, national companies and international companies to provide those opportunities for our students to get real-life practical experiences because that is what you, as companies, are looking for.”

The event also heard an update on the regional and national economy from Professor Jim Roach and from Ian Jones, head of regional community partnerships at BU.

The next networking breakfast is on May 8.