Key figures from the UK sporting scene gathered at St Mary Magdalene College in Islington last week as the Premier League 4 Sport (PL4S) programme announced a further £2million of investment and an extension of the programme to at least 2013.
The pioneering sports participation programme, launched in 2009 as a joint venture between the Premier League, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust, will now see the addition of four new Olympic sports; basketball, handball, hockey and netball thanks to an additional £2m of funding through the Premier League Creating Chances programme in partnership with the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
This investment will help the scheme to double in size and further extend its target for sports participation among young people.
Since the programme started, more than 39,000 young people have been engaged nationwide, exceeding its initial target of 25,000 across the Olympic sports of badminton, judo, table tennis and volleyball by over 50%.
PL4S sees Premier League clubs acting as hubs linked to community sports clubs and facilities, which in turn are connected to local secondary schools to create satellite sports centres. Each of the 20 clubs involved has a dedicated PL4S coordinator working locally with the sports clubs and schools to maximise opportunities for young people.
This approach has helped expand the offer provided by each sport. By being demand driven and with a more informal focus, each sport has been able to appeal to a wide range of young people who might not have had the confidence, time or money to travel to sessions at football clubs.
To mark the announcement of the programme’s extension and additional investment, Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, joined Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media & Sport, Jeremy Hunt; Youth Sports Trust Ambassador, Darren Campbell and Chelsea Football Club ambassador, Graeme Le Saux, at Arsenal in the Community hub club St Mary Magdalene Academy. Here they discussed the successes of the programme to date and its future aims. They were also treated to project demonstrations, including a badminton session run by Arsenal in the Community coaches and Olympic silver medalist, Gail Emms.
Premier League Chief Executive, Scudamore said: “Our clubs bring unique qualities to a project like Premier League 4 Sport, and not just the power of the club badge to attract young people’s involvement. The dedication of the clubs and their staff to this project has ensured that PL4S has gone way past the targets first set in 2009.
“Delivering on the promises of London 2012 is not necessarily the job of the Premier League, but we say why not? We have the ability to do it and it is a yet another opportunity to work in partnership with Government and make a positive contribution.
"What we have shown through PL4S is that participation through football works and that is why we are committing another £2m over the next two years and rolling it out to four more sports. PL4S will provide tens of thousands more competitive sporting opportunities and help develop a new generation of coaches. That is a real legacy.”
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Hunt added: “Football can be incredibly powerful in engaging young people. PL4S has already involved tens of thousands of young people, and has given a huge boost to grassroots sport.
"The extra funding announced today by the Premier League means that the project will be able to offer even more sports. Initiatives like this will do a huge amount to help deliver the Government’s plans to encourage young people to develop a sporting habit for life.”
Arsenal in the Community PL4S Coordinator, Ross McKinley, commented: “After a successful phase one of PL4S, we are delighted that the Premier League has continued its funding for the next two years. Over the course of the previous phase, Arsenal in the Community has made great strides in developing new community clubs and generating interest in the sports.
"The next challenge is to transform this interest into a sustainable programme that can thrive by working with schools, clubs and local partners. With some great schools, teachers, coaches and clubs, this programme can leave a very real, lasting legacy from London 2012 in Arsenal’s local boroughs”
As well as doubling in scope, PL4S has also set itself healthy new targets during the 2011/12 season. These include:
- Engage over 11,000 new participants through 343 satellite sessions
- Increase retention rates to 64%
- Massively expand sustainment rates to 43%
- Recruit up to 1,000 new PL4S volunteers
- Organise over 200 PL4S national and regional competitions
- Deliver another 850 sports leaders and sports coaching qualifications but in half the time.
Arsenal’s involvement in the PL4S programme is predominantly based in schools across Islington, Camden and Hackney and generally runs between 4.30-6.00pm on weekdays during term time. Mainly aimed at school years 6, 7 and 8, the sports clubs are open to all ages and abilities, and anyone can attend the majority of sessions, regardless of whether it takes place in their own school. After attending these school sessions, participants will have the opportunity to join an established community club in that sport.