Wednesday 19 March 2014
The power of sport to unite youngsters in positive activities was highlighted at a recent Premier League 4 Sport table tennis tournament between fans of Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough.
More than 30 young people took part in the competition this month, made up of singles and doubles matches between participants from the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme and the Middlesbrough Foundation PL4S programme.
Owls winger Michail Antonio was on hand to watch the event, and the 23-year-old was impressed with the work of the PL4Sport initiative.
"I've got back into table tennis after losing interest for a few years"
"It's great to see young fans from different clubs coming together in this way," he said. "There are so many positives to come from getting kids into schemes like this and the Premier League 4 Sport Project is already benefitting so many people."
Sheffield Wednesday's team were represented by youngsters from Ecclesfield, Forge Valley, Yewlands and Longley College while volunteers from both organisations were on hand to help officiate and support the day.
The fixture was won by the Middlesbrough Foundation team, who won nine of the 12 matches, before the youngsters visited Hillsborough to watch the Championship match between the two clubs, which ended in a 1-0 win for Wednesday.
The competition is likely to have a long-term effect on the youngsters.
"I've got back into table tennis after losing interest for a few years and now look forward to taking part in the PL4Sport sessions at Concord Sport Centre," Tom Bunce, 17, from Chapeltown said.
The Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme launched their PL4Sport programme in 2013 and since then, over 200 new participants have taken part in the club's multi-sport initiative which is delivered in the north of Sheffield. (Sheffield United cover the south)
Premier League 4 Sport began in 2009 and is delivered in partnership between the Premier League and Sport England. The aim is to use Premier League and Football League clubs as hubs linked to local community sports facilities to encourage young people to try out other sports.
The programme initially involved four sports but it has been such a success that the scheme now delivers 12 different disciplines - badminton, judo, table-tennis, volleyball, basketball, handball, hockey, netball, athletics, boxing, golf and tennis.
In the last five years, it has engaged more than 60,000 people and recently received a boost with a £16.8m partnership between the Premier League and Sport England.