Tottenham Hotspur’s state-of-the-art stadium was one of five venues to host Premier League Inspires challenge celebration events this summer, as young people representing football clubs came together to recognise their efforts to protect the environment.
Over 1,750 young people from 44 clubs in the Premier League and English Football League across England and Wales took part in this year's challenge, working on individual social action plans to address environmental sustainability specific to their club and local community.
The challenge is one element of the Premier League Inspires programme, which clubs run on a weekly basis to support 11–25-year-olds who are at risk of not reaching their potential as they move through the education system and early adulthood.
Andre and Ameen, QPR
“We got involved with Premier League Inspires when Queens Park Rangers approached our school,” says Andre, pictured below. “They asked for a few people who would be interested in environmental sustainability. I support QPR, so I wanted to do it.
"We came up with the idea of using old football gloves and turning them into wallets. We found that we could create two wallets per glove, so that was really good.”
“Our school really stressed the importance of the environment to us,” adds Ameen. "I was surprised to hear that a lot of schools didn’t always even have separate bins for plastic and waste.
“When QPR came in saying we could work to help the environment, that’s what attracted me and Andre. It’s the kind of thing we’re passionate about, and the kind of stuff we were already involved in.
"We care about the environment because I don’t want future generations to grow up in desolate areas.”
“Our idea was a game that teaches you how to recycle...where to put your rubbish," says Crystal. "You compete to get the highest places and you can use the hashtag on Instagram. It’s fun because it’s not just on paper telling you how to recycle, we know that people like to use games or social media.
“When I knew that footballers knew about our project, it was really cool because it meant that it wasn’t just a school project. It makes us believe that it will actually work to help the environment.
“It was cool that Arsenal posted our project as well because more people will see, it’s not just like just telling your friends to recycle.”
Thomas, Charlton Athletic
“We did think about doing our project about homelessness, but we ended up focusing on litter," says Thomas. "We went to Charlton and realised there was just so much litter everywhere, so we wanted to help change that.
“Before the challenge, I knew nothing about sustainability or the environment. But now I know that it’s a serious thing that does affect everyone, so it makes me just want to help in any way that I can.
“Now I try to make people more aware. When my friends and family litter, I just tell them that it’s bad. I think making people more aware is very important.”
Lola and Michelle, Tottenham Hotspur
“We wanted to use our project to spread awareness,” says Michelle. “We eventually decided to use stuff like plastic to make a tree and make art from recycled things.
"Before, I didn’t really care about the environment, I always used to litter, I never thought about recycling or reusing, and I used to throw away a lot things that I didn’t have to. I wasn’t really thinking about spreading awareness either.
"After our project, I’ve started to recycle and take sustainability into account, and how we can start to make the world a better place to live."
Lola adds: “Since I started with the Premier League Inspires it showed me that I should look after the world because we need to look after the Earth. It's the only planet we have.
"Like with recycling, one little thing just helps, can help, the whole planet.”
What is Premier League Inspires?
This season, 44 professional football club community organisations across the Premier League and English Football League will be delivering Premier League Inspires sessions at their stadiums, in local schools and at alternative educational settings, with partnership support from the Professional Footballers’ Association.
More than 25,300 young people from across England and Wales have received more than 104,000 hours of targeted support through the programme to date.
Words by William Bitibiri