A successful programme using football to engage positively with young people has received three-year backing from Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC.)
PL Kicks, which in Cleveland is run by the MFC Foundation, delivers free sports sessions to young people in some of Cleveland’s most deprived areas.
The programme, which has been funded by the Commissioner’s Office since 2015, will receive £86,000 over the next three years. As a result, it will be able to continue its popular project until March 2025.
The MFC Foundation is the charity arm of Middlesbrough Football Club, The Club’s badge attracts participants – and means PL Kicks sessions are usually massively popular.
Between September 2021 and March 2022, a total of 1,657 young people attended sessions in Stockton, Middlesbrough and Redcar and East Cleveland. Some sites have attracted more than 100 participants per session.
In addition to social and community action, Kicks offers young people the chance to take part in a wide range of sports, including football. The project also runs educational workshops and gives youngsters the chance to meet Cleveland Police on the football pitch.
Targeting antisocial behaviour
Cleveland PCC Steve Turner now wants PL Kicks to target areas with high levels of antisocial behaviour (ASB) and which offer few positive activities for young people.
Steve said: “The more positive opportunities we can give young people, the less likely they are to become involved in antisocial – and other types of criminal – behaviour.
“It’s important that we inspire young people to find their passion and find ways to become law-abiding citizens, contributing to the overall wellbeing of our communities.
“For several years, MFC Foundation has been a valued partner of my office. It is a testament to their hard work that the PL Kicks programme has been such a success.”
PCC Steve Turner attended the unveiling of the project’s most recent endeavour at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough.
Young people from Kicks’ Acklam Green wanted to make a statement about discrimination and the environment.
The result was a collaboration with local artist Bobby Benjamin, rapper Shakk and Borderlands.
The idea came from youngsters Klayton Browne, Clayton Green, Taylor Green, Alfie Robson, Maddie Smith, Leo Wardman and Jayden Wood.
Helped by friends and families, the youngsters started collecting as many plastic bottles as they could in October last year. Some of the bottles could have been recycled but were more likely to have gone to landfill.
The bottles were cut into pieces and made into a football with the message #UNITYUTB. At the same time, the group worked with rapper Shakk to create an anti-discrimination chant.
A resounding success
Jim Dyson, MFC Foundation’s Transitional Youth Worker at Acklam Green, said: “The project has been a resounding success and one I am very proud of.
“It has provided the young people with a chance to challenge themselves and learn new talents as well as giving them a voice on what injustices they see in their community.
“In the weekly sessions, participants discussed discrimination and hate in a very mature manner. Some participants even spoke up about the discrimination, which they had experienced in their lives.”
The foundation’s newest PL Kicks venues are King’s Academy, Newport, the Sutton Centre and a Teesside University facility on Southfield Road in Middlesbrough, together with Redcar and Cleveland College. All are based in areas, which have suffered high levels of ASB over the past year.