SJA award winner Gary Neville turns to journalism talent-spotting as co-founder of new course

When football stopped for Gary Neville, the world of media arrived. Now the ex-Manchester United and England defender is helping a generation of would-be journalists thanks to his University Academy 92 course.

The first journalism cohort graduate next year with the sports journalism students following a year later and Neville hopes it will inject some fresh talent into the industry.

He regularly spends time at the university’s campus, opposite Emirates Old Trafford, and believes the UA92 journalism students are ready to make a splash.

“We have some incredibly talented journalism and media students at UA92 and are looking forward to welcoming many new faces in September too,” Neville, who won our Sports Pundit of the Year award in 2019, tells the SJA.

“Although we are a new institution, many of our students are already making their mark at a local and regional level and we are so proud of them. 

“Media is an incredibly popular industry and we are doing everything we can to help give our students a competitive edge.  We have high hopes for what they can go on to achieve.”

UA92 launched in 2019 aiming to disrupt the higher education market with a focus on practical teaching and learning, the promise of significant industry collaboration and the offer of pathways to people who may not have considered university an option.

Students can take degrees and diplomas in the fields of Sport, Business and Media and all qalifications are accredited by Lancaster University.


Under the tutelage of ex-BBC presenter Phil Jones and former ESPN journalist Mark Lomas, students have been receiving hands-on experience, as well as mentorship from industry experts.

The likes of BBC and Sky rugby stalwart Sonja McLaughlan and Jon Birchall, audience and content director (Sport) at Reach PLC, have offered insight into their own career paths, while students have also had the opportunity to interview British Olympic icons Greg Rutherford, Jonathan Edwards and Colin Jackson.

“These interactions with elite athletes, journalists and editors are both invaluable and inspirational,” says Lomas. “The students come out of these sessions with improved confidence, incredible contacts and a better understanding of the level of work required to reach the top of a profession.

“We are always open to new collaborations with journalists who want to pass on their expertise to the next generation or organisations keen to give young, hungry journalists a chance.”

Jones adds: “We’re very much an industry-led organisation, looking to build lasting collaborations with experts in their respective fields. We want our students to leave us prepared and ready to immediately flourish in the workplace, whatever their career path.”

Despite the Covid pandemic, students have created content this past year for MOTDx, worked on features for The Big Issue and pitched pilot ideas to Mike Carr, former editor of BBC Radio Sport and now CEO of podcast firm Crowd Network.

This coming season, UA92 students will be embedded in the media team of Salford City FC, the club Neville owns with his former Manchester United team-mates from the Class of 92, while they will also have opportunities to work with the communications team at Lancashire Cricket Club. 

“At UA92 we want to instill belief in our students that nothing is out of reach for them as long as they are hungry, tenacious and prepared to work hard for it,” Neville explains.

“That was hammered into me and my Manchester United team-mates by Sir Alex Ferguson and it is an important message to keep repeating.

“We already have some great partners on board who buy in to what UA92 is all about. Our student body is diverse, ambitious and ready to make an impression.”

If you are interested in offering your expertise to UA92’s students via a guest session or if you would like to collaborate on providing work experience placements, please email