Thursday 21 March 2013
In his introduction to the Creating Chances 2012 report, Lord Coe, the chairman of the British Olympic Association, hails the impact the initiative has at home and abroad.
It was at the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) that I was once again reminded what an amazing year it had been for British sport. Only history will tell whether it will be our greatest ever 12 months, but it is certainly the most remarkable of my lifetime.
In the SPOTY shortlist were 11 gold medal Olympians and Paralympians, including the first Briton to win the Tour de France and the first British man to win a tennis Grand Slam in 76 years. The only non-Olympian was golf Major winner Rory McIlroy, who himself was involved in one of the most remarkable sporting achievements of the year as part of the victorious Ryder Cup team in the 'Miracle at Medinah'.
"Professional football is now a recognised best practice provider of social development"
But that was 2012, a coruscating whirl of emotions and drama in which the Premier League played its part. From the remarkable last day of the season (and especially the 93rd minute at the Etihad Stadium) to one of my personal highlights of the year, Chelsea lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy. Both those events were the best of sport, on a knife-edge and ultimately decided by skill honed from a lifetime of dedication.
If 2012 proved one thing, it is that sport inspires. A generation of young people have been genuinely motivated by the history they have witnessed at the likes of the Olympic Stadium, the Allianz Arena and Flushing Meadows. Moving forward, all of us involved in sport have an important job to do in harnessing that energy to powerful effect.
I am pleased to see that already the Premier League is doing it right. For years the Premier League has been delivering in the area of sports participation and they, like me, are heartened to see that in 2012 this issue moved higher up the agenda for Government. It was appropriate that just after the end of the Paralympics in September the Premier League launched the Premier League Community Facility Fund, a three-year £18m capital investment programme to build local sports facilities to increase participation and physical activity in underserved, inner city areas.
But it's not just about sport. In this report are some powerful examples of partnership having an impact on young people upon these shores and afar: Kickz with the police, Premier Skills with the British Council, Reading Stars with the National Literacy Trust, over 80 community projects funded by the Premier League Professional Footballers' Association Community Fund. And that's just the League; you now have the likes of Liverpool and Sunderland acting as lead agencies in their city for men’s health and family learning.
Professional football is now a recognised best practice provider of social development. As chair of the British Olympic Association I have a personal interest in what for the last four years has been one of the most imaginative sports programmes in the country, Premier League 4 Sport.
"The Premier League is to be applauded for ensuring that thousands of young people will get their opportunity to participate in sport"
Since 2009, Premier League clubs have been used as hubs to promote the Olympic sports of judo, badminton, table tennis and volleyball. The Premier League's appeal catches youngsters' attention, the deep local roots of every Premier League Club means that there are talented and experienced community coaches able to welcome the enthusiastic participants to the project, and then the other sports show what they can do.
So far nearly 60,000 young people have joined in, 351 satellite sports clubs have been created around the 20 Premier League clubs, an encouraging 37% of participants are now female, and in excess of 2,700 young people now have sports coaching qualifications.
This energy and excitement has seen the project grow. No longer just four sports but expanded to eight, with netball, hockey, handball and basketball added in 2012. More are knocking at the door, the next phase will see tennis, athletics and golf joining in; finding the next Andy Murray, Jess Ennis or Rory McIlroy should not be beyond us.
At a time when public spending is under pressure, it is important that sport works together to make the most of its assets. The Premier League brings matching funding to the table, making it attractive to Sport England who see their money go further. The other sports have their networks too. Together they also bring in solid investment from their own sources. True partnership by organisations that all love sport and see no barriers to working together to achieve a common aim.
The Premier League is to be applauded for ensuring that thousands of young people will get their opportunity to participate in sport. In years to come the whole of sport will still be feeling the benefit - from Sports Personality of the Year all the way through to the local sports hall.