Premier League 4 Sport (PL4S), a pioneering sports participation programme, has exceeded its initial target of engaging 25,000 young people in the Olympic sports of badminton, judo, table tennis and volleyball by over 50%.
Since the programme began it is has provided 39,327 youngsters across the country with an opportunity to sample four new sports and contributed 25% of the overall increase in participation in badminton, judo, table tennis and volleyball.
Launched in 2009, PL4S is a joint venture between the Premier League, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust. It was funded by a £3.8m investment through the Premier League Creating Chances programme in partnership with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
The initiative has provided a blueprint for the idea of turning secondary schools into community sports clubs. Such has been its success that an additional £2m of funding from the Premier League will double the number of Olympic sports PL4S works with.
"Delivering on the promises of London 2012 is not necessarily the Premier League's job, but why not?"
- Richard Scudamore
PL4S sees Premier League clubs acting as hubs linked to community sports clubs and facilities, which in turn are connected to local secondary schools to create satellite sports centres. Each of the 20 clubs involved has a dedicated PL4S coordinator working locally with the sports clubs and schools to maximise opportunities for young people.
This approach has helped expand the offer provided by each sport. By being demand driven and with a more informal focus, each sport has been able to appeal to a wide range of young people who might not have had the confidence, time or money to travel to sessions at football clubs. The three key aims of PL4S are:
Engage – get young people to try a sport for a first time
Retain – develop interest in repeat participation, and ensure participants take part in five or more sports sessions in one term
Sustain – make a commitment to competition and coaching qualifications, and ensure that participants take part in 10 or more sessions across two terms.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said: "Our clubs bring unique qualities to a project like Premier League 4 Sport, and not just the power of the club badge to attract young people’s involvement. The dedication of the clubs and their staff to this project has ensured that PL4S has gone way past the targets first set in 2009.
"Delivering on the promises of London 2012 is not necessarily the job of the Premier League, but we say why not? We have the ability to do it and it is a yet another opportunity to work in partnership with Government and make a positive contribution.
"What we have shown through PL4S is that participation through football works and that is why we are committing another £2m over the next two years and rolling it out to four more sports. PL4S will provide tens of thousands more competitive sporting opportunities and help develop a new generation of coaches. That is real legacy."
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt added: "Football can be incredibly powerful in engaging young people. The Premier League 4 Sport scheme has already involved tens of thousands of young people, and has given a huge boost to grassroots sport.
"Football can be incredibly powerful in engaging young people"
- Jeremy Hunt
"The extra funding announced today by the Premier League means that the project will be able to offer even more sports. Initiatives like this will do a huge amount to help deliver the Government’s plans to encourage young people to develop a sporting habit for life."
PL4S is having a positive impact on Sport England’s sports participation figures. Since the start of the initiative there has been an overall increase of 80,000 young people playing the four sports of badminton, judo, table tennis and volleyball. A quarter of these 80,000 are directly attributable to PL4S.
The first four sports have enjoyed such uplifts that the PL4S programme has been extended to at least 2013 to ensure the introduction of an additional four new sports - basketball, handball, hockey and netball. Premier League investment by then will be £5.8m, and there has been £1.24m additional investment in the programme via Sportsmatch funding.
Using the power of football to attract young people, the aim is for PL4S to be providing a legacy long after the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
As well as doubling in scope, PL4S has also set itself healthy new targets during the 2011/12 season. These include:
Sport England Executive Director of Youth and Communities Mike Diaper said: "Premier League 4 Sport is a real success. It has created a 'stepping stone' to transition young people into community sport by bridging the gap between schools and clubs. As we enter into the next phase of the programme, it is great to see even more NGBs [National Governing Bodies] come on board.
"It is playing a vital role in increasing young people's participation"
- Alison Oliver
"By transitioning young people into community sport before they leave school we will ensure we deliver a lasting participation legacy beyond London 2012."
Alison Oliver, Director of Sport at the Youth Sport Trust, added: "Premier League 4 Sport is an excellent example of how the profile and influence of our top football clubs can be used to inspire and encourage young people to take part in a whole range of sports.
"The relationships these clubs have with their local communities and schools are invaluable and through PL4S, new partnerships with National Governing Bodies have led to an exciting network of satellite sports clubs on school sites.
"We're delighted to be part of such an innovative programme, which is playing a vital role in increasing young people's participation."