Govia Thameslink Railway and Stevenage FC Academy have extended their long-standing community partnership which will provide young apprentices at the club with free travel.

Now in its seventh year, GTR’s relationship with Stevenage FC stands strong as ever.

Forty of Stevenage FC’s current apprentices will continue to receive free travel on GTR services, with some of the 17 to 18-year-olds unable to afford their own otherwise.

In return, the apprentices are acting as ambassadors for wearing masks on train services, which is now a legal requirement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Current apprentice Obi Onyeagwara said: “My train pass has been invaluable for me during my apprenticeship at Stevenage. I have to travel by train every day for training and games and the pass enables me to focus fully on working my hardest to try and gain a professional contract.”

Academy graduates who have benefited from GTR’s travel support in past years include defensive midfielder Arthur Iontton, now in Stevenage’s first team squad.

Arthur said: “The train passes were a massive help during my time as an apprentice in the academy at Stevenage. Without this opportunity I’m not sure I would have developed as a player as much.”

Robbie O’Keefe, Stevenage FC Academy Manager, said: “GTR has been an excellent partner for Stevenage Football Club since we started to work together in 2014, especially for the young men at our Academy, allowing them to develop both on and off the field.

“We have young men from a wide range of backgrounds and some wouldn’t be able to attend training and games if it wasn’t for GTR’s involvement.

“The partnership also allows our apprentices to give back to the local community through volunteer activity, and at this challenging time they will be proud role models for safe travel by train.”

Last year players supported the train company’s Great Sock Appeal, which collected over 4,000 new pairs of socks for people using local homeless shelters over Christmas. Stevenage’s apprentices promoted the campaign and collected socks for distribution by the Helping Herts Homeless charity.

Tom Moran, Managing Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “People who need to travel can rest assured that we’re keeping our trains and stations clean and safe. All passengers must wear a face covering at all times, at the station and on the train.

“This partnership with the Stevenage FC Academy not only allows young sportsmen to take up opportunities they would otherwise not be able to enjoy but now it is helping us spread this important message: wear a face covering to protect everyone around you.

“We are looking forward to working with the Academy on even more community initiatives this year.”