HRH The Prince of Wales has praised the work of The Prince’s Trust Football Initiative after welcoming stars of the Barclays Premier League to a reception at Clarence House.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Jermain Defoe, Bolton Wanderers' Kevin Davies, Queens Park Rangers' Danny Shittu and former Aston Villa striker Dion Dublin were all in attendance at the event which celebrated 15 years of the scheme.
The Prince's Trust's partnership with the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association started in 1997 and has helped more than 20,000 young people gain momentum to move into employment, education or training.
"I am thrilled that it has been so successful"
- HRH The Prince of Wales
"I always felt that if somehow we could work together with the football world, there is so much you can do to help bring in young people who otherwise might not get involved in all sorts of different programmes," said the Prince of Wales.
"The great thing about this initiative is that it helps to raise self-esteem and self-confidence and then all sorts of other things become possible.
"I am thrilled that it has been so successful. I'm enormously grateful to the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association for their remarkable support for this whole initiative."
The Prince of Wales also highlighted that more than three out of four of those who take part in the scheme have gone onto work, education or training.
"That, I think, says so much about the value of this entire initiative," he added.
The programme is supported by all 20 Barclays Premier League clubs as well as 45 clubs from the Football League and, since 1997, £7m has been donated to the scheme by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association.
"I grew up on a big council estate in Sheffield - I know how difficult it can be"
- Kevin Davies
Together with the Trust, the clubs have developed 12-week programmes which see young people taking part in a wide variety of activities as well as meeting footballers face-to-face.
"If I can inspire one of them, it's been worth it," said Davies, a long-term supporter of the initiative. "It's something I really enjoy doing.
"Sitting down with the kids and listening to their stories I can relate to it, I grew up on a big council estate in Sheffield, I am one of six and I know how difficult it can be. I know how difficult it was for my parents.
"I'm there to try to inspire them and to give them some advice."
England striker Defoe added: "I've been lucky in life, I've been blessed and I just want to help the kids and give something back.
"Obviously being a footballer, I know how big football is in England and through football we can raise that awareness and get the kids involved. It's brilliant."
As well as speaking with the players, Prince Charles also met managers of the various Community departments at the Premier League clubs as well as young people who have benefited from the scheme.
"20,000 young people have had their lives touched and changed by the programme"
- Richard Scudamore
Prince Charles was also presented with a Blackburn Rovers shirt, which has the Prince's Trust emblem displayed on it this season, by the club's Deputy Chief Executive Paul Hunt.
The event also heard from Prince's Trust ambassador Ray Ansah, who was in a gang and spent time in prison but after support from the initiative is now studying Sports Science at university.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said the partnership between the Prince's Trust and the football world is the "perfect combination".
"The Premier League puts on the best football competition it can and uses the power that it has to influence people as responsibly as it can," said Scudamore. "You can't underestimate how important the last 15 years have been.
"Most importantly it's the outputs, it's 20,000 young people who have had their lives touched and changed by the programme. And the programme selects people who really have got very little else going for them. It's fantastic."
Read more about why the initiative is supported by Premier League clubs.