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Wednesday 12 March 2014

'This challenge is expanding their world and horizons'

Three teams emerge from very competitive first semi-final of Premier League Enterprise Challenge

Arsenal, Crystal Palace and West Ham United are the clubs who will be represented at the fifth 2013/14 Premier League Enterprise Challenge final after their teams came through the first semi-final at the home of West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday. 

The three teams were selected ahead of those representing Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Cardiff City, Chelsea, Fulham, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion after impressing the judges with their presentation skills and business proposals. They will take part in the final to be held at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in London on 30 April.

All the teams had been working on a business brief that was set in November by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore and which challenged the young people to formulate ideas for a football club to develop revenue streams from international markets, specifically from Africa and the United States. To read the brief in full, click here >>.

Since then the youngsters taking part in the challenge, which this year has focused on engaging "hard to reach" students, have conducted research, worked on their creative ideas and finances as well as developing their presentations, which they had to deliver to a Dragon’s Den-style judging panel within a strict time limit.

"I can't put into words how proud we are as a school"
Nickael Briggs

Palace have reached the final in their first year of taking part in the challenge and the team from Carshalton High School for Girls won over the judges with their ideas which included a link-up with the MILO hot chocolate drink brand as well as offering fans travel prizes to the UK.

"We are over the moon," said Nickael Briggs, curriculum leader of citizenship at Carshalton High. "I can't put into words how proud we are as a school. The girls have put so much work into this and it has paid off.

"When I was watching them on stage I was like a proud parent! Seeing it all come together, seeing them go through all the emotions, and then seeing the end product, was so  fulfilling and it just reminded me of exactly why I wanted to work with young people."

St Mary Magdalene Academy, in Islington, is located in the shadow of the Emirates Stadium and this is the third time they have represented Arsenal in the competition. Their idea of linking up with McDonalds in America and the use of branded balloons in Africa was a hit with the judging panel, which included Paul Lewis, assistant director to Lord Young, who advises the Prime Minister on small business and enterprise.

"It is absolutely fantastic; I am completely thrilled," said the Academy's leading teacher for   Economics and Business Studies Claire Thompson. "This is expanding their world and their horizons. It's a huge life lesson. That's why we are doing all of this, it is way beyond getting through an exam.  

"In the working world everyone gets grades but who can say they took part in something like this?"
Naim Miah

"The Enterprise Challenge has given them a very engaging and inspiring real-life marketing challenge with our biggest local brand, which is Arsenal. It brings our subject of business studies alive. This has had a big impact on the confidence levels of the team members as well as their presentation skills and their understanding of business ideas. I know it has been a life-changing experience for my previous students."

The West Ham United team are made up of young people from Premier League Kicks, which is funded by the Premier League and Sport England and is delivered in partnership with the local police to engage hard-to-reach youngsters in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the community.

Team member Naim Miah, 16, called taking part in the challenge a rewarding experience.

"It gives everyone a chance," he said. "You get to perform your ideas and also people take you seriously. We are all equal here. It has created new links for me and it has boosted my confidence. It's expanded my knowledge and it's given me an insight about what life is like out of the school bubble.

"It's about the opportunity. In the working world everyone gets grades but who can say they took part in something like this? This is something that makes us different from the rest when we are applying for jobs."

Four of the West Ham youngsters attend the Stepney Green College and PE teacher Giovanni Giordano is looking forward to another inspirational event in London when his team compete in the final.

"I am really proud of them," he said. "I don't think they expected it, although they performed really well. I am quite shocked because there was some really stiff competition.

"This is a fantastic scheme because it gives an opportunity for kids like this from deprived areas to step up and get their ideas across. All too many times those kids get overlooked and are not given the opportunity to be involved in these sorts of programmes."

"If you believe in yourself and if you work hard, you are going to succeed"
Youssouf Mulumbu

The semi-final was not all about the work as the young people also had a guided tour of the Hawthorns and heard from Adrian Wright, West Bromwich Albion's sales and marketing director, while first-team players Youssouf Mulumbu and Thievy Bifouma met the teams and presented certificates.

Mulumbu, who has been with West Brom for the last five years, revealed to the audience about what inspired him to become a professional footballer.

"My dad always pushed me to be a football player, my mother wanted to push me to become a doctor, or something like that," he said. "So I tried my best to change her mind. I worked really hard. The best thing is to work hard. In everything you want to do. If you believe in yourself and if you work hard, you are going to succeed. That's what I tried to do and that's why I am here today."

The second semi-final, featuring teams from Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Sunderland and Wigan Athletic will take place at Sunderland's Stadium of Light on 13 March.

The Enterprise Challenge is the highlight of the Premier League Enterprise Academy (PLEA), which gives young people insight into the running of a professional football club, engaging them in the world of business. The PLEA is delivered in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills with 24 Premier League and Football Clubs involved in the initiative. Soon, 90,000 will have taken part in the programme since its inception in 2008.

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