Wednesday 05 March 2014
In July last year, a three-year £16.8m partnership between the Premier League and Sport England was announced to support young people from some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities.
The investment drives the expansion of two community programmes run by the Premier League: Premier League 4 Sport (PL4Sport) and Premier League Kicks, the rebranded version of the successful Kickz project.
"Having something like this in the city is a real benefit not only to children but to the whole community, too"
With help from the annual funding of £1.5m for PL Kicks nationally Stoke City launched their rebranded programme last week at The Discovery Academy, in Bentilee, a suburb of Stoke, and first-team star Andy Wilkinson came along to the school to see local youngsters enrol in the new initiative.
The three-year programme, which will be run by the Stoke City's Community Trust, is aimed at people aged 14-25 and will be rolled out across the city. As well as football, which has been the mainstay of the programme, Stoke’s PL Kicks scheme will also offer a variety of sports, such as boxing, basketball and aerobics, with training sessions on display at the Academy at the relaunch.
Wilkinson was impressed by the arena and by the programme on offer to locals.
"It is a lovely facility,” he said. “I got the chance to walk around and have a look at everything and it's great.
"It has everything needed to help children progress and develop in the sports they want to do. Any sort of sport programme is great because it gets children outside into the fresh air and off their computers and programmes like this mean a lot of children can get involved.
"When I was a child I used to be outside playing football. My mum had to tell me to come inside. So having something like this in the city is a real benefit not only to children but to the whole community, too."
Ben Gibson, Kicks participation manager from Stoke City's Community Trust, explained that the benefits of the initiative are not limited to practising sports.
"The Kicks programme provides sports and opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Gibson said. “We also run a volunteer school where youngsters get a practical experience in volunteering as well additional qualifications to help improve their job prospects."
"The Community Team do fantastic work engaging with people in the community young and old"
Wilkinson’s appearance gave a boost to the relaunch and chatted to youngsters, many of whom got his autograph. His presence was one of many at community events that Stoke’s players regularly do, with Wilkinson’s fellow defender Marc Muniesa surprising kids at a recent half-term soccer school by turning up at Longton Rugby Club, Trentham Fields.
The Spain Under-21 defender showed off his skills to almost 50 children who were taking part in the Community-organised event and answered their questions.
"It was great to see the kids here today all enjoying their football,” Muniesa said. "I remember being their age myself doing the same – playing football all day long. It is also very important to come here and support the Community Team who do fantastic work engaging with people in the community young and old."
For more information on Premier League Kicks and the clubs who offer it, click here