The work of Arsenal in the Community over the past quarter of a century has informed the approach to its social inclusion programmes. These schemes believe in the notion of ‘sport for good’ rather than ‘sport for sports sake’ and prioritise social contributions ahead of sporting outcomes.

In recent years expectations have grown from central and local Government, football authorities and the public for professional football clubs to play their part in addressing some of the social issues faced by society. After taking on board the Government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda in 2004 Arsenal in the Community quickly realised that much of its work had been contributing to all five strands, a decade and a half before it was introduced.

The Action Sport project of the late 1980s was possibly the department’s first attempt at such work, since then many of the projects continue to offer targeted support to young people. The positive knock on effects for their communities has often been significant. 

Arsenal’s Positive Futures and Kickz programmes currently form the umbrella for this work and both programmes are nationally recognised as benchmark standard. Arsenal Positive Futures consistently achieves the highest Gold Star rating from Substance, the organisation contracted by the Home Office to monitor and evaluate projects nationally. The six Kickz projects across four London boroughs are considered to be amongst the best in the country which is reflected in both the achievements at the national Kickz Awards and the high number of categories in which the Club is short-listed.

Connecting to disengaged individuals and groups is difficult and although the Club does not claim to have solutions to some of the complex issues they face, these projects are well positioned to make significant contributions to them and the communities in which they live.

All too often young people can easily find themselves drawn into the criminal justice system; involved in gangs, exposed to substance misuse and other negative influences. Offering positive activities and a suitable role model does go some way to act as a diversion but the issues are far more complicated. Targeting vulnerable individuals and supporting them is an approach the department has adopted.

Much of this work is as far removed from football as can be; rehabilitation, support for a relapsed cocaine addict, character witness in court cases and gang exit strategies for individuals, the list goes on.

Individuals benefit from Arsenal in the Community’s attention and so do the communities in which they live. The work has been the catalyst for regeneration and five pitches have been refurbished to make way for places where young people actually want to play.

Positive Futures
Arsenal Positive Futures began in the Borough of Islington in 2004.  The scheme aims to engage young people in a range of sporting and educational activities.  By providing a safe and familiar environment where participants feel comfortable, it is hoped that the project becomes a consistent part of young people’s lives.

Like many of Arsenal in the Community’s initiatives the project has evolved and gone beyond delivering regular football sessions on ten local estates.  Since supporting young people is at the heart of the scheme, a range of focused pieces of work for individual groups have been developed to address some challenging issues (including sexual health, drug misuse and the consequences of carrying weapons) with young people in a relaxed environment.  It reaches out to the young people on its programme who are considered difficult to engage and also offers them pathways to employment, further education through the Arsenal Sport and Learning programme and it also provides access to volunteering opportunities.

From the current Positive Futures staff of two full-time and 14 part-time members, a total of seven have come through Positive Futures and Arsenal in the Community initiatives. There are many benefits to employing young people who have been trained by the project as they are able to relate to the young people they coach. 

Finding creative ways to engage young people is important to maintaining engagement. Residential trips and away day activities coordinated in partnership with Homes for Islington can create a relaxed atmosphere which can be conducive to discussions around challenging issues.

Arsenal Football Club and the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park are two high profile organisations based in the Borough of Islington who are working towards bringing young people together through sport.   Groups of young people on the Positive Futures programme have been invited to experience tours of the Mosque and received a talk about aspects of the Islamic faith.   Many of the young people commented that although they lived within a couple of miles of the building, they had never had the opportunity to enter.  In exchange, twice a week, young people from the Mosque attend football sessions on the Harvist Estate in Islington. The aim of the sessions is to integrate the group with young people on other sessions.  

Contact: Anthony David adavid@arsenal.co.uk 020 7697 7380

Arsenal Sport & Learning
Offering year 11 students a full-time alternative to mainstream education, the Sport & Learning programme which forms part of Arsenal’s Positive Futures work, is aimed at young people who have become disengaged with the traditional school setting and are at risk of exclusion.  Using sport as the initial route for engagement, pupils are introduced to a range of academic and sporting qualifications including GCSEs, Sport Leaders Awards and ICT qualifications.  This initiative sits under the work of Positive Futures and is funded by Springboard Islington.

Arsenal, together with partners Springboard Islington and Cambridge Education@Islington have reintegrated 128 young people back into formal education through this scheme. 

Contact: communitydepartment@arsenal.co.uk 020 7619 5003

Arsenal Kickz
The Arsenal Kickz initiative is a national programme that brings together the football industry with the police and other partners to help young people realise their potential.  Once again, it is another example of an Arsenal in the Community initiative which has evolved since it began in 2006 and is now implemented across four London boroughs: Islington, Hackney, Camden and Westminster and has proved to be a catalyst for regeneration.

In addition to the regular training sessions and weekly matches and tournaments there are boxing sessions held at Islington Boxing Club, tours and tickets to watch Arsenal play at Emirates Stadium and opportunities to participate in national events across the UK.

The project also has a direct and fast approach to employing participants.  13 young people have progressed from participants to working part-time with the scheme and other Arsenal in the Community projects.  There are also four who have achieved employment locally after gaining accreditation and volunteer opportunities with the scheme.

The Arsenal Kickz project is an award-winning scheme and at the last National Kickz Awards ceremony, the scheme was short-listed for seven categories and picked up two including the Community Contribution Award and the Outstanding Partner Support Award.

Contact: John Keyes jkeyes@arsenal.co.uk

Arsenal in the Community Go Dutch
A number of young people from Arsenal's Kickz programme, some now employed by Arsenal in The Community, travelled to Holland last weekend to take part in some valuable work experience organising the Dutch Finals of ‘Panna Knock Out Street Football.'

Panna Knock Out Street Football

Panna Knock Out Street Football

The visitors from London worked with the team in the Netherlands during the tournament by refereeing both preliminaries and final rounds. An Arsenal in the Community coach/volunteer co-refereed in every centre court game, including the final. Rosh Mendis of Arsenal's Kickz programme said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for the young people we work with. It's great for them to be able to go abroad and experience a foreign culture and work with fellow community cohesion professionals in the Netherlands."

Panna is a spectacular type of street football in which subtle dribbling counts more than scoring a goal. Players play 1 against 1 on a small pitch measuring 4 x 6 metres in quick games lasting 3 minutes. The winner is the one who scores the most goals. But better still than scoring a goal is passing your opponent by dribbling the ball between his legs. A classic "gate" of this kind is the highest possible achievement and makes you the winner immediately. And this is where the origin of the name of the game is to be found: "panna" means "gate" in Surinamese. 

This pilot project, launched by Arsenal in the Community and the Dutch embassy in London, presented an opportunity for the Londoners to see a community cohesion programme in a different environment from their own and work closely with colleagues from the Netherlands. The project envisages a return visit from a number of Dutch community cohesion and sports project participants and practitioners. The project is jointly funded by Arsenal in the Community and the Dutch Embassy.

Arsenal in the Community will collaborate with the Tottenham Foundation and the Dutch Embassy to run more tournaments across London this spring, culminating in the UK Final of Dutch Panna Knock Out on 29 May at New River Stadium in Tottenham.

What's Panna? 
Panna is a spectacular type of street football in which subtle dribbling counts more than scoring a goal. Players play 1 against 1 on a small pitch measuring 4 x 6 metres in quick games lasting 3 minutes. The winner is the one who scores the most goals. But better still than scoring a goal is passing your opponent by dribbling the ball between his legs. A classic "gate" of this kind is the highest possible achievement and makes you the winner immediately. And this is where the origin of the name of the game is to be found: "panna" means "gate" in Surinamese. 

For the youth, however, Panna is more than just a football game. Panna is a lifestyle, complete with urban clothing, street slang, hip hop music and streetwise attitudes. The trick is to impose yourself on your opponent without any sign of emotion and without losing a drop of sweat. And all of this with the ever-present pumping hip hop beat in a relaxed atmosphere. 

National Dutch Finals of Panna Knock Out 2010
On Sunday 21 March, the National Dutch Finals of Panna Knock Out 2010 took place at the Bazaar in Beverwijk, the Netherlands. In this massive event, several thousand people crowded in to see various Panna Kings compete for the prize of National Panna King 2010. The line-up included several well known Dutch Panna footballers, but also the World Champion freestyler Sean Garnier and the British Panna Champion of 2009, Mr Chace O'Neill. Mohammed Boutaka, winner in 2006 and runner-up in '07 and '08, regained his title in 2010. Coincidently, Mo Boutaka is also one of the main freestylers to come to Britain every year, and was part of the team that introduced Panna to the Tottenham Foundation earlier this month. The Dutch Panna Finals is more than football alone; it features several performances by famous Dutch hip hop stars, a range of side activities and funding drives for several community and sports charities, as well as freestyle shows and celebrity matches. 

Panna UK 2010
Preliminary rounds for the UK Panna Championships in London have been set. The tour opens in Aberdeen on the 19th of May, then goes to Belfast (date tbc) followed by Manchester on the 26th of May. The UK Final will take place in London on 29 May.

You can find some photography of the National Dutch Finals of Panna Knock Out 2010 here:http://picasaweb.google.com/AmbassadeLondon2009/NKPanna2010# . Please click on the maginfying glass on the upper right hand corner for full res versions (5-10 MB)


For information on Panna Knock Out, contact: Weijer Vermeer weijer.vermeer@minbuza.nl 020 7590 3224

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 19 Feb 2010