Youth football is not just about what happens on the pitch, it is part of a young player’s all-round development.

This is something Hexham Juniors FC coach, Toby Price, was well aware of when he set out to find new sponsors for his girls' U14s Lionhearts team.

He said: “I didn’t want just anyone. I targeted potential sponsors who could work with my squad to become more confident and ambitious females and help address the gender imbalances that still exist in sport and especially in the workplace."

And that’s how the local cutting-edge engineering firm, PDL Solutions, got involved as a team sponsor for the 2020-21 season.

The sponsorship deal is a perfect fit, since PDL Solutions is striving to encourage more females into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers and is now able to work with the Lionhearts to promote engineering; first by showing the girls team around the company’s Hexham facilities back in February before lockdown.

PDL Solution's managing director Michael Williams said: “It was fantastic to meet the team, showcase our work and endeavour to promote the brilliant, inclusive, opportunities within the engineering sector. We were incredibly impressed by their can-do attitude."

During the tour, the girls were given a presentation on the company's analytical work by engineer Elizabeth Waterman, and they also took part in some fun engineering challenges such as bridge building with her colleague Nick McLeish.

“The visit was really interesting,” said Lionhearts player, Kathrine Hinchcliffe. “I want to become an engineer and this has encouraged me even more. Perhaps I could even get a job with PDL when I graduate!”.

This season, the Lionhearts also secured sponsorship from Women Empowered: a foundation that champions female empowerment in the workplace. “We remain very proud of the Lionhearts and always wish them every success. We consider them to be young role models and ambassadors for sport and teamwork,” says the foundation’s chairman and co-founder, Reena Rogers. “Encouraging more females into STEM subjects is fantastic.”

“Both our sponsors are committed to gender equality and there’s no better place to start than with these young players who will soon have to make decisions about their career choices,” concludes Toby Price. "The girls are well aware of their right to equal treatment in sport; we just want to show them what options are open to them in the workplace too.”