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 bowls. The Arsenal aerobics classes and Arsenal weights and fitness sessions also featured amongst the wide offering of sport open to all ages. 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 19 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 current day range of sports sees the Premier League 4 Sport Programme add table tennis, judo, volleyball 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.
Arsenal in the Community also delivers football and education sessions to a wide range of people with disabilities including visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing, children with Autism, adults and children with learning disabilities as well as education and football Double Club sessions in local special schools.
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. Now, at Emirates Stadium and alongside local organisations and authorities, Arsenal in the Community continues to deliver quality football and sport provision in North London, the UK and the world.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 3 Feb 2011