Former Carlisle United star Darren Edmondson is spearheading a major new sporting academy which is set to bring full-time education back to Newton Rigg.

Edmondson, the former Blues player, coach and Workington Reds and Barrow manager, is setting up the Cumbria Institute of Sport.

It will be based at the former agricultural college near Penrith and will offer a range of sporting academies combined with academic courses.

Edmondson says the plan is being backed by Newton Rigg’s new owners, who are investing in improvements to sporting and classroom facilities on the site.

The former footballer intends it to be a “unique” institute which will cater for aspiring young sports people from across Cumbria aged 16 to 19.

Edmondson, 50, has spent the last two years working for the Park View Academy of Sport in the north east, and believes there is scope for something similar in his home county.

Lewis Pendleton, who also runs Park View, is involved with Edmondson in the Cumbria plan.

The scheme will see academies set up in men’s and women’s football, rugby, cricket, netball and golf, with professional coaching and development in those sports.

The institute will also offer education courses in the form of Level 3 BTEC in sport and a fitness diploma.

Edmondson said it is designed to give school leavers the chance to train professionally and play against clubs and academies in the region, whilst equipping themselves with skills and qualifications.

He added that the recruitment of teachers and coaches is under way and a website has gone live, while he has spoken to a number of clubs and organisations in Cumbria and beyond with a view to establishing links that can be mutually beneficial.

He also hopes it will prove a shot in the arm for Newton Rigg, whose future has long been the subject of speculation since former owners Askham Bryan sold the site which had previously provided agricultural and other land-based education for generations of Cumbrians.

New owners - AW Jenkinson and the Leo Group - are fully committed to the sporting project, Edmondson said.

“From my two years at Park View, I’ve realised there isn’t anything like it in Cumbria,” he said.

“There are Cumbrians with talent but there’s not enough opportunity to showcase it. To try and get Cumbrians who are interested in participating and competing in sport on one site would be fantastic.

“The opportunity to use Newton Rigg seemed too good not to explore. It’s a great venue, as central as you can get, and the owners have agreed to back me by putting money in to develop the site, pitches and classroom space.

“The environment I want to put together will have Cumbrians working in it, whether teachers or professional coaches, and we’ll be linking to clubs to give us more connections to try and find those talented young people who might have slipped through the net.

“Education wise, what we’ll offer includes a Level 3 BTEC in sport, which gives enough UCAS points to get to university – it covers vast areas of sport and is a good qualification in itself.

“If university isn’t the way they want to go, and sport hasn’t taken them where they want, there are jobs in sport available for the skills they’ll get. It’s a good mix based on everybody’s needs.

Edmondson says he has identified areas of Newton Rigg which will be most suitable for the academy’s needs, and these will be revamped and refurbished ahead of its launch.

He also plans to team up with clubs in the area as part of a games programme involving the academy’s students, and says transport will be provided to bring students “from all four corners of Cumbria”.

Edmondson added: “What sets it apart will be that there will be a games programme every week on Wednesdays, personal training/strength and conditioning work every day, GPS equipment to measure your data, and so on.

“Young people have had a torrid couple of years with Covid, not being able to play sport anything like as much as normal. I’m hoping this can be a release for them to come back out of that indoor bubble.

“And the fact we will be linking with some professional clubs will give another platform for young people to showcase their talent.”

The website is