Sky Academy has launched its established scholarship programme to support and fund sports stars of the future across Europe for the first time.

The Sky Academy Sports Scholarship scheme is entering its third cycle of supporting young athletes and sporting protégés, but this year will expand outside of the UK and Ireland to incorporate Italy and Germany with 12 places in total.

Sky will select one promising young athlete from both Germany and Italy and provide them with financial support, a Sky mentor and developmental training, in order to help them achieve their sporting goals. Ten candidates will be selected from the UK and Ireland to receive the same support.

The new scholars will be joining a programme which has helped over 20 young sportsmen and women. Notable alumni include Olympic medallists, Katie Taylor (Gold – boxing), Louis Smith (Silver - gymnastics) and Siobhan Marie O’Connor (Silver - swimming), as well as Paralympian Mark Rohan (Gold –paracycling) and Elise Christie (World Silver medallist – speed skating).

Another new feature of the 2017-2021 scheme will see all individual sports considered, not solely Olympic disciplines. Sky will be selecting athletes competing in any individual sport and will consider sports that have not previously been represented on the scheme, such as climbing, karting/ motorsports, tennis and golf.

Tony Lester, Head of the Sky Academy Sports Scholarship Scheme, commented: “Since starting the scheme at Sky we have worked to deliver more support to even more people. By launching our third cycle of scholars, we are providing a once in a lifetime opportunity to athletes from more countries and more sports than ever before.”

Prospective scholars from the United Kingdom and Ireland are encouraged to apply via the website Home | Sky Academy | Sky Sports. Applications open on Wednesday 15 February and close midnight Sunday 26 March. Applications are open to 16-25 year olds who are at the very top of their sport. Successful applicants will be announced in September 2017.

Siobhan Marie-O’Connor, Sky Sports Scholar (2013-2017) and Olympic Silver medallist said: “Being a Sky Scholar was amazing for my career. The support of the scheme allowed me to improve every aspect of my swimming and stay focused through tough times. Thanks to Sky, I was able to take my swimming to the next level and finish my time as a scholar on the Olympic podium. Sky also provided me with great insight into how they work behind the scenes, and I’ve gained so much more confidence both in and out of the water. I would encourage any ambitious athlete to apply and see where it could take you.”