Date published: 09/10/2014
The culmination of a year’s good work by the 47 clubs who run Premier League Kicks schemes will take place this weekend when the Premier League Kicks Cup final is held at Hackney Marshes, in east London.
In the shadow of Olympic facilities where sporting dreams came true in 2012, more than 600 youngsters from around England and Wales will gather to play in a tournament to find the 2014 Premier League Kicks champions.
This year more than 70 teams will take part, 47 of which will be Under-16s, a further 24 will be Under-18 girls' teams and the guest of honour will be former Barclays Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba.
Across 16 pitches at East Marsh, the teams will be divided into eight groups in the Under-16s, four in the Under-18s, from which the group winners will go into a knockout round. The eventual winners in each section will pick up new, specially commissioned trophies.
As with the Premier League Kicks programmes run up and down the country, the event will not just be about playing football, but about educating the youngsters and helping them to choose better pathways. When they are not on the pitch the players will be in workshops learning about subjects such as the dangers of drugs and sexting.
The idea for Premier League Kicks was conceived by the Premier League and the Metropolitan Police, when it was known as Kickz. Having originally been piloted as a scheme for just three clubs, the Football Foundation transformedKickz into a highly successful nationwide project in 2006. It is now managed by the Premier League and has grown to offer in excess of 100 community projects in over 780 locations to more than 45,000 children throughout the country with the aim of offering them better pathways for the future.
At its core PL Kicks revolves around weekly sessions held in regular locations which the local youths attend. By engaging youngsters in constructive activities, including a wide variety of sports, coaching, music, educational and personal development sessions, communities have been transformed with impressive sports participation rates and the authorities reporting significant reductions in anti-social behaviour. The scheme has also enabled thousands of youngsters to find routes into education, training and employment.
Those who attend the Hackney event will have been selected as a reward for their attendance and behavioural record in their local programmes.
The event also celebrates the first year of support that Sport England has given the programme. Sport England, which works for the government encouraging people to participate in sport, has recognised that clubs are in an excellent position to be able to support their aim of getting more people taking part regularly in physical activity. The programme has had such a successful year that during the 2014/15 season it will be expanded to include 50 clubs.
Hackney Marshes, the site regarded by many as the spiritual home of Sunday football with more than 82 pitches, is currently undergoing redevelopment of its facilities thanks to a commitment of almost £2 million from the Football Foundation, to which the Premier League has contributed.