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Saturday 16 March 2013

Creating Chances: Encouraging improved sports participation

Before launch of Creating Chances report, Premier League's sports participation work is reviewed

  • Former badminton world champion Gail Emms helps out with a PL4S project

Ahead of the launch of the latest Creating Chances report on 21 March, which outlines the good work conducted by the Premier League and its clubs in their communities and across the globe, looks at the key work the organisation has undertaken to help people locally and globally.

"There is no doubt also that having a link to the Premier League has played a major part in attracting new people to our sport"
Gail Emms

Until this year the Premier League’s work has been based around five pillars: Education; Community Cohesion; International; Sports Participation and Health. Here the focus is on sports participation, which has used the power of football to encourage children to actively participate in other sports.

Before the development of the pillars, it was recognised that not enough was being done to get young people to take up sport in their own time and so, in September 2009 the innovative Premier League 4 Sport (PL4S) project began. Its key aim was to offer young people the opportunity to play higher-quality sport more often, thereby contributing to the delivery of the then government’s five-hour sport offer for young people.

The involvement of Premier League clubs not only increased the cachet of the projects concerned but made it possible to take advantage of the top-level coaching and organisational expertise within the nation’s leading football clubs for the benefit of other sports.

Premier League 4 Sport

Delivered by the Premier League, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust and funded by a £3.8m partnership with the UK Government, the PL4S project set about turning Premier League clubs into hubs linked to local community sports facilities, which in turn linked up with local secondary schools to create satellite sports centres.

PL4S had three main objectives: to provide chances for 11-16-year-olds to take part in sport outside school hours, increase the diversity of sport and improve the infrastructure and supporting links between schools and clubs.

Each Premier League club now has a dedicated coordinator who works locally with the sports clubs and schools to maximise opportunities for young people. The scheme initially offered opportunities in the four Olympic sports of badminton, judo, table-tennis and volleyball, with over 80 new clubs being established across the four sports in the first year alone.

However, with an additional £2m of investment to take the project through to 2013 PL4S was able to build on the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games in London by introducing four new sports – basketball, handball, hockey and netball.

'Engage, retain, sustain'

As the project has evolved so the Premier League has committed itself to help increase sport participation, with its philosophy based on the following tenets: Engage, retain, sustain. The idea is to attract youngsters to sports participation, ensure they are interested enough to keep returning and encourage them to commit in sporting competition and achieve coaching qualifications.

In February last year, for example, 150 children representing 15 Barclays Premier League clubs, took part in the first ever Premier League 4 Sport National Badminton Championships in Milton Keynes, where participants also got the chance to be photographed with the Barclays Premier League trophy.

Badminton received huge backing from some of the Premier League’s leading stars with Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric and Ledley King as well as Paul Scholes and Danny Welbeck from Manchester United all swinging rackets to encourage kids to get involved.

“Partnerships are at the heart of sport which is why I’ve been so encouraged by Premier League 4 Sport,” said former badminton world champion and silver medallist Gail Emms. “There is no doubt also that having a link to the Premier League has played a major part in attracting new people to our sport.”

  • Blackburn's girls’ Under-13s take on Everton in the 2011 Premier League Schools Tournament

Premier League Schools Tournament

Football, naturally, plays a role in the Premier League’s Sports Participation plans. The annual Premier League Schools Tournament has also proved to be an enduring success. Now in its eighth year, the tournament enables hundreds of youngsters the chance to experience the thrill of being treated like a Premier League footballer.

"Every match was played with a great buzz and sense of happiness"
Matt O'Brien

Created to increase participation in football, each of the 20 Barclays Premier League clubs stages their own competition to select a school to represent them on finals day, with more than 1,000 schools and 8,000 players battling it out for the right to play at Liverpool’s iconic home ground, Anfield this year. As well as Under-11s mixed teams, there is an Under-13s girls’ tournament with the same format taking place on the same day.

Finals day is an incredibly special occasion for the children involved, as they get to live the experience of a Premier League player in what is a unique and memorable occasion. The finalists use the players’ dressing rooms at the ground, run out of the tunnel to the Premier League anthem, play on the hallowed pitch and have their match officiated by a Premier League referee.

This year the qualifying stages are getting more popular than ever with Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic reporting record numbers of schools and children competing for the right to wear the clubs’ shirts.

"Our under-11 mixed Premier League Schools Tournament was a great success with 30 schools attending and, more importantly, over 240 children enjoying a fantastic day of football," said Matt O'Brien, Schools Development Officer at QPR in the Community Trust. "Every match was played with a great buzz and sense of happiness by all as they battled it out for the chance to represent QPR."

Whether badminton or table-tennis, hockey or netball, judo or football, the Premier League remains resolved, through projects such as PL4S and the Premier League Schools Tournament, to continue to inspire young people to actively participate in sport in their local community.

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Key Points

  • The latest Creating Chances report will be launched soon
  • looks at the five pillars that have been the base of the Premier League's work
  • In the first feature, sports participation is looked at as the power of football used to improve people's lives