Five up-and-coming young football referees, a scrum half in the England Women’s Rugby Union squad and a top korfballer were among the students presented ￡1,000 by the University of Bedfordshire.
The annual Platinum Performance, Coach and Officials Sport Scholarships awards recognises Bedfordshire students performing at an ‘elite level’ – competing, coaching or officiating in sport nationally or internationally.
This year 16 students have been awarded funding from the University, which will go towards helping them continue their sporting participation whilst at university.
Among those awarded were five shining stars of the Beds FA referee development programme including Joshua Smith, who is a Level 3 referee, which means he can officiate professional games.
To-date he has been the assistant in many Football Conference clashes, and has run the line for matches shown live on TV.
The Physical Education Qualified Teacher Status student said he was delighted with the funding which will help him with travel costs.
The other referees were Mary Harmer, the youngest female Level 4 referee in the UK, which means she can officiate semi-professional games (supply leagues) and act as an assistant referee, in the Women’s Super League and in other contributory league matches such as the Southern League; as well as Matthew Jackson and Ayrton Hursey who are also both at that same standard.
Darren Lander, a Level 5 ref, also received a Scholarship.
Also making use of a scholarship will be Saracens’ Georgina Gulliver, a female rugby star who was unfortunate to miss out on a place in the Women’s Rugby 2014 World Cup-winning England squad due to injury.
There were also three triathlon athletes awarded, as well as Stanley Dunne, who plays for the nation’s top Korfball side, Trojans, and has represented England at under 21 and under 23 level in the multi-sex sport, which combines rules from both netball and basketball.
Another top sportswoman recognised was Paralympic dressage star Mari Durward-Akhurst, who came second in Luton’s Sports Woman of the Year 2013.
He said: “It’s incredible to see the enormous sporting talent we have here at the University, with students performing at the very highest levels.
“Many of you will probably go on to perform at a very high level, but alongside this you will need to work. Having sporting success, such as this, on your CV will make you stand-out. Employers are always looking for the ‘what else’ factor. This is it, they will see the determination, dedication and character that you have, which will certainly make a massive difference.”
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