Sunday 17 March 2013
Ahead of the launch of the latest Creating Chances report on Thursday 21 March, premierleague.com looks at the pillar of Community Cohesion and the achievements of Kickz, an award-winning scheme which has helped thousands of young people turn their lives around.
The idea for the initiative came in 2005 after a meeting between the Premier League and the Metropolitan Police, who got together to try to find a way of helping the police connect and engage with hard-to-reach youngsters in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the community.
It all began with three pilot projects in London, run by Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and Brentford, with a fourth club, Manchester City, joining soon afterwards. Over the last seven years the initiative has grown phenomenally and today there are 45 clubs from the Premier League and the Football League delivering over 110 Kickz projects across the country.
The aim of the scheme is simple: to use the power and the reach of football to create safer, stronger and more respectful communities through the development of young people’s potential.
Kickz sessions run 48 weeks of the year at least three times a week with the young people able to receive football coaching as well as taking part in competitive matches. But there is much more to Kickz than the action on the pitch.
"Kickz is now a key element of policing in Merseyside"
Inspector Colin Lewis
Youngsters can also get involved in a wide variety of other activities such as dance and music while there are also sessions and talks aimed at personal development and lifestyle choices such as career advice, healthy eating and the dangers of getting involved in drugs and gangs.
With targeted work engaging youngsters in constructive activities and barriers between young people and authority figures coming down, communities have been transformed.
As well as local authorities reporting significant reductions in anti-social behaviour while Kickz sessions are running, thousands of youngsters have been able to gain routes into education, training and employment.
One key component of the Kickz project is the numbers of young people who come through the programme and then return to take coaching sessions and pass on their experiences and knowledge to a new intake. And not only is volunteering encouraged and facilitated, hundreds of youngsters have gained employment with one of the club community schemes.
The programme has led to very special partnerships being developed, none more so than at Merseyside Kickz, which involves a unique collaboration between Liverpool and Everton football clubs. Last year Merseyside Kickz celebrated its five-year anniversary with stars from both clubs attending an event to mark the occasion.
VIDEO: Merseyside unite for Kickz celebration >>
“Kickz is successful because it is a sustainable programme providing a consistent, stable presence for young people in the heart of the communities,” said Inspector Colin Lewis from the Merseyside Police. “Kickz is as good a partnership as I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Kickz is now a key element of policing in Merseyside.”
The work, effort and commitment involved in Kickz does not go unnoticed. Since 2009 there has been an annual awards ceremony to honour and recognise the participants and volunteers taking part in the scheme.
Last year’s glittering ceremony took place at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and in addition to dance and music acts on display, Premier League star Patrick Vieira and Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove were on hand to present awards and speak to the young people involved.
The programme has also spawned the Kickz Cup, giving teams from all over England the opportunity to compete and build relationships in a friendly and safe atmosphere. In 2012, over 700 players featured in the event with all Kickz clubs putting forward a team. The winners were rewarded for their success with a unique training day at the state-of-the-art Nike Academy at Loughborough University.
The life-changing effect of Kickz is not only being felt in this country with ‘Inspired by Kickz’ projects now delivering in Brazil, India and Indonesia.
In Brazil, for example, the Premier League works with the British Council on the Esporte Seguro (Safe Sport) scheme in the Morro dos Prazeres favela in Rio de Janeiro, an area with high levels of deprivation and crime.
“The behaviour of the youngsters has changed but also their perspective of life,” said police officer Geisa Santos, who works as a coach at the project. “They used to have lost dreams and they have been restored.”
VIDEO: Inspired by Kickz: Esporte Seguro >>
The results Kickz has produced over the last seven years have been spectacular and with the scheme continuing to evolve and the Premier League and its partners committed to its success, the programme will continue to make a positive impact for years to come.