It is widely accepted there are many benefits associated with sports participation; among them are health, self-esteem, boundaries and confidence. When the delivery organisation has the pull of Arsenal Football Club, the potential impacts can be significantly enhanced.

In 1985, Arsenal Football Club began to widen the sports offer to the local community, an approach that produced some of Arsenal in the Community’s longest standing projects. The Arsenal Bowls Club valued its association with the Club they had grown up with just yards from their own doorsteps.  The original sports centre stood in the car park at Highbury and was a hub of activity for team sports like the bowls.  The centre also housed the Arsenal Indoor Cricket Sixes and the Arsenal Indoor Tennis League; both of which were sports Arsenal in the Community went on to deliver to surrounding primary schools. Over 15,000 pupils have since received six-hour introductory coaching lessons throughout Arsenal in the Community’s 18 year-old Primary Schools Sports Programme.

The Arsenal Hockey programme quickly followed and has consistently met every level of the sports development continuum from grassroots to elite performance and continues to link inner-city children to a sport whose participation remains largely fed by the public school sector. The Gunners Hockey Team has produced many county, regional and international players and has sustained 18 years of adult league hockey under parent club Old Loughtonians.  

The Arsenal aerobics classes and Arsenal weights and fitness sessions also featured amongst the wide offering of sport open to all ages.

The current day range of sports sees the Premier League 4 Sport Programme add table tennis, judo, basketball and badminton to Arsenal in the Community’s repertoire but it has been football that has remained at the forefront of delivery.  Arsenal in the Community grew the Club’s soccer school programme and today, the initiative known as ‘Play the Arsenal Way’ rolls out across the UK and 23 countries around the globe.

Government requests, sporting trends and various organisations have played their part over the years but the fact Arsenal in the Community has been able to sustain its projects and consistent participation over 25 years deserves special recognition.  

For many, Arsenal in the Community has been a constant presence in their life.  When the Club opened its indoor sports hall to the public, it became a focal point for the community where a number of recreational and competitive sports tournaments were held. 

Premier League & PFA Community Fund

Premier League - Creating Chances

The Sports Centre.  The ‘Hub.’
The indoor facilities at Highbury weren’t originally public access.  Each week the first, reserve and youth team would train at Highbury using the terraces, gym and the indoor sports hall at Arsenal’s former home.

When the Club made the decision to open its doors to the indoor sports hall the aim was to develop sports programmes for all sections of the community, many of whom had not traditionally associated with a professional football Club.  The centre fast became one of the best indoor facilities for cricket and tennis.  In fact, the Arsenal Cricket Sixes were a successful team who tasted victory at the centre during the 1980s.

The sports hall also became home to the annual intake of Arsenal trainees – young people who joined Arsenal in the Community to learn valuable skills and gain coaching qualifications – a scheme still going strong today. The sports hall was one of the first accredited NVQ Assessment Centres in leisure and recreation. The young trainees would accompany Arsenal in the Community staff to deliver introductory hockey, tennis, cricket and football sessions in local primary schools to which Arsenal in the Community is still dedicated after 18 successful years. 

The centre also began to hold aerobics classes, volleyball, free weights sessions and over time the schemes developed and the Club began to work with people with disabilities.

The Arsenal Bowls Club
With the opening of the sports hall came a variety of community groups, including the short mat bowls team. A group of senior citizens who used the facilities and formed the Arsenal Short Mat Bowls team.  These sessions, overseen by Arsenal in the Community staff still run today and matches are played at Emirates Stadium and on estates thanks to a partnership with Homes for Islington which provides safe places for older residents to play.

Contact: Mark Antoniewicz mantoniewicz@arsenal.co.uk

Arsenal Soccer Schools
Arsenal Soccer Schools were also housed at the indoor sports hall and the popularity of the coaching sessions have meant that today over 15,000 youngsters are ‘playing the Arsenal way’ in the UK each season.

Arsenal in the Community grew the popular Arsenal Soccer Schools from its Highbury base to develop residential soccer schools and over 30 schools across the UK and overseas.  Arsenal in the Community continues to run after school sessions and advanced soccer schools in Islington.

Primary School Sports Programme
When the sports hall opened its doors, attracting schools to the venue was not easy at first.  This contributed to Arsenal in the Community’s decision to go into local schools to deliver introductory hockey, tennis, cricket and football sessions.

Over 15,000 pupils have received six-hour introductory coaching lessons throughout Arsenal in the Community’s 18 year-old Primary Schools Sports Programme.  Today, due to demand for more focus on football, Arsenal in the Community accompanied by Arsenal trainees still visit schools to deliver coaching sessions to keep children active and enjoying sport.

Contact: James Warnock jwarnock@arsenal.co.uk 020 7704 4154

Arsenal Hockey Programme
As a development of the primary school sports initiative, the hockey programme developed and a structured scheme is still going strong today which ensures talented young players have a pathway to continue the sport to a competitive level.  Those youngsters who were particularly interested in hockey were invited to sessions at the indoor sports hall and options to take their game further through the Club’s association with parent Club, Old Loughtonians.  The Gunners Hockey Team has produced many county, regional and international players and ensures the game is accessible to young people in the inner-city.

Contact: Mark Antoniewicz mantoniewicz@arsenal.co.uk 020 7704 4157

Premier League 4 Sport
Through the latest Premier League sports initiative, Premier League 4 Sport, Arsenal Football Club is offering young people the chance to get involved in Olympic sports. 

Arsenal in the Community links up with local community sport clubs to help attract 11-16 year-olds to offer them the chance to get involved in badminton, judo, table tennis and volleyball.  Due to its heritage of hockey and cricket, Arsenal has added these two sports to extend its offering.

The initiative will help the Government’s ambition to offer young people five hours of sport a week, as part of its 2012 legacy plans. It will also address the drop-off in sports participation when young people leave secondary school.

Sport England Chief Executive Jennie Price said:  "When young people leave school, they often leave sport too, and reversing this trend is one of Sport England’s most important jobs. We believe that linking the chance for them to try new sports with some of the best football clubs in the world will really capture their imagination, and will help to boost participation in some of our key Olympic sports."

Youth Sport Trust Chair Sue Campbell added:  “We are delighted to be involved with the Premier League 4 Sport project.  It provides a wonderful opportunity for us to work with different key partners to ensure local access to community sports clubs for more young people through a sustainable initiative.  Working alongside national governing bodies of sport and the Premier League will bring real added value and appeal to the satellite clubs on school sites which will be developed as part of Premier League 4 Sport.”

Arsenal in the Community are coordinating the following sessions in various locations around Camden, Islington and Hackney:

Table Tennis
Wednesdays - Highbury Grove - 4.30-6.00pm
Wednesdays - William Ellis - 4.30-5.30pm
Thursdays - Haverstock - 4.30-5.30pm
Fridays - St Aloysius - 4.30-6.00pm

Badminton
Mondays - St Aloysius - 4.30-6.00pm
Mondays - Camden School for Girls - 4.30-6.00pm
Tuesdays - St Mary Magdalene Academy - 4.30-6.00pm
Tuesdays - Highbury Grove – 4.30-6.00pm
Thursdays - Haverstock - 3.30-4.30pm
Sundays – Clissold Leisure Centre - 11.00-1.00pm

Volleyball
Mondays - IAMS - 3.30-5.00pm
Wednesdays - Camden School for Girls - 4.30-6.00pm
Wednesdays - BSix College - 4.30-6.00pm
Thursdays - Holloway - 3.30-5.00pm

Judo
Mondays - City Academy, Hackney - 5.00-6.00pm
Tuesdays - Central Foundation - 3.45-5.15pm
Wednesdays - Cardinal Pole - 3.30-5.00pm
Thursdays - Hampstead - 3.45-5.15pm

Hockey
Mondays - St Mary Magdalene Academy - 3.45-5.15pm
Wednesdays - Canonbury - 4.00-5.00pm
Thursdays - Rosemary Gardens - 4.00-5.00pm

Basketball
Tuesdays - Greig City Academy - 3.00-5.00pm
Thursdays - Highbury Grove - 4.30-6.00pm
Fridays - Elthorne Park - 5.00-7.00pm

Through the Premier League 4 Sport project, Arsenal in the Community are working in partnership with community clubs (HUB Clubs) in these sports, namely Finsbury Table Tennis Club, Black Arrows Badminton Club, London Lynx Volleyball Club, London Beach Volleyball Club, Old Loughtonians Hockey Club and Hawks Basketball Academy. For links to the HUB Clubs and to find out sessions they run, please see the attached links.

Finsbury Table Tennis Club - http://sport4me.co.uk/sport_club_details.php?cid=1208125395988

Black Arrows Badminton Club - http://blackarrowsbc.com

London Lynx Volleyball Club - http://londonbeachvolleyball.org/ 

Old Loughtonains Hockey Club - http://www.oldloughtonians.co.uk/

Hawks Basketball Academy - http://www.hawksacademy.com

For any more information, please contact Ross McKinley on rmckinley@arsenal.co.uk or 0207 704 4147

Disability sport
Arsenal Football Club has always believed that disability should be no barrier to sport; disability football sessions for visually impaired and deaf children began at the sports centre and continue today and also incorporate sessions for adults with learning difficulties and children with autism.

The programmes began with an event held at the indoor sports hall in 1992 which saw 50 partially sighted young people come together for football coaching with Arsenal in the Community and the organisation British Blind Sport.  Since this time, Arsenal in the Community has forged partnerships with Mencap, National Deaf Children’s Society, London Sports Forum and Powerchair Football to make football accessible to all.

As a result of Arsenal Football Club’s partnership with its former Charity of the Season, TreeHouse, the national charity for autism education, Arsenal funded sports facilities at the organisation’s new school in Muswell Hill.  As part of the partnership, Arsenal in the Community trainees and staff received specialist training for coaching autistic youngsters and are now committed to delivering these sessions weekly. 

Contact: Dinesh Vijayan dvijayan@arsenal.co.uk

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