Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the FA Premier League


  The Premier League notes the recent inquiry the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has commenced into drugs and role models in sport. In football, drug-testing procedures and related disciplinary matters are overseen by the Football Association, and we understand they will be providing the inquiry with evidence on this.

  We are pleased that the Committee has widened the scope of its inquiry to also give consideration to the positive role that professional athletes can play in sport and wider society.

  The Premier League recognises the responsibility that comes with the tremendous profile, popularity and reach that football has in our society. An independent analysis, conducted by Deloitte & Touche, of the Premier League and its Clubs' contribution to the community, found that almost £70 million a year is redistributed to good causes, with these projects reaching 3.7 million participants.

  In this submission we will explain how we work as a delivery partner with Government, harnessing the profile and appeal the league has in order to secure many positive policy outcomes. These include educational attainment, crime prevention and health promotion, as well as achieving our goal of enabling all young people, regardless of sex, race, religion or disability to have access to a new generation of football facilities.

  The Premier League and its Clubs have an extensive programme of activity to use their players and the powerful brand of football as positive role models and mechanisms respectively to help motivate young people to participate in projects that raise educational standards, tackle social exclusion and promote community involvement.

  The information that we have provided is only a brief outline of some of the initiatives that our Clubs and their players are involved in. Should you wish to receive more information about any of these projects or what initiatives we are planning to develop in the future please do not hesitate to contact Chris Hurst on 020 7298 1657. We would also be happy to set up a visit to a community project for any of the Committee members if they are interested.

  Please also find enclosed a copy of the latest Premier League's Annual Report, leaflets outlining our Community initiatives and a copy of the Premier League's Annual Charter Reports (not printed).

1.   Enabling young people to achieve their own personal "Gold Medal" standard of sporting performance

  The FA Premier League is committed to giving as many people as possible in the country the opportunity to take part in football, as both participant and spectator.

  The FA Premier League invests £20 million annually into the Football Foundation, which is also funded by the Football Association and Government. This funding is aimed at providing opportunities for players of all abilities rather than simply ensuring the development of stars of the future. It is used to support the development of football on parks' pitches and local facilities, as well as a wide range of community and educational initiatives.

  The Foundation, together with its partner organisation the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, have now delivered projects worth over £350 million. Without doubt this is the most comprehensive funding package the game has ever seen.

  Premier League clubs operate Academies for talented young footballers that focus on developing technically gifted home grown players that will be able to progress to first team and international levels of the game. Established Premiership stars play an important role in the development of Academy players, with Academy Managers using examples of good conduct as a way of educating young players. Academy scholars participate in a Professional Athlete Lifestyle course encouraging them to understand the pressures and responsibilities they will face as a professional footballer.

2.   Engaging young people in a more healthy and active lifestyle

  Through their Football in the Community Programmes Premier League Clubs deliver top-class coaching provision for pupils in local schools and clubs. This plays an important part in encouraging participation in sport, engaging children in healthy living and teaching them valuable skills, such as the importance of working as part of a team and improving communication skills. Premiership players regularly appear at these sessions, passing on coaching tips and handing out prizes and certificates that reward not just excellence but regular participation and attendance.

  The Premier League is committed to encouraging participation in football at all levels of the game through our work with the Football Foundation. Leading international stars, such as Middlesbrough's and England's Gareth Southgate, act as Ambassadors to encourage participation in and awareness of Foundation projects.

  Clubs relay valuable messages regarding a healthy and active lifestyle, with players and managers playing a pivotal role in making learning interesting. Newcastle United, in partnership with their local health authority, have distributed 6,000 free CD Roms to children on Tyneside to teach schoolchildren about the importance of fitness and healthy eating. To encourage young people to learn, in a fun and innovative way, the benefits of a healthy living the interactive CD Rom features Sir Bobby Robson who sets children the challenge of rescuing their favourite football star from an evil wizard who has turned him into a couch potato.

  Other examples of Club based initiatives include Portsmouth where midfielder Steve Stone recently launched an anti-obesity campaign being run in local schools, while Blackburn Rovers' Club Learning centre runs lively and informative programmes educating children about the importance of a balanced diet by comparing their own daily meals to that of their star striker, Andrew Cole.

  The FA Premier League is currently working closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Health and Sport England to see what further joint efforts can be made to address the growing public health issues caused by inactivity such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

3.   Helping young people reach goals and overcome hurdles that are not necessarily sport related

  The Premier League and its Clubs use the power of football to raise educational standards, helping motivate young people to reach their full potential and make a positive contribution to society. Clubs address nearly all areas of the national curriculum through innovative education programmes run in classrooms based on club premises. Since it was first piloted in 1997, over 85,000 pupils and 5,000 schools have benefited from Playing for Success, an initiative developed between the Premier League, the Department for Education and Skills and Local Education Authorities, designed to use football as a way of increasing literacy, numeracy and ICT standards. Players take an active role in helping engage underachieving and unmotivated pupils, both through making appearances in these centres and by being used as the focus of learning material.

  Such has been the success of this scheme, the British Council, the Department for Education and Skills and Premier League Clubs are linking with teams and schools around the world. One example of Playing for Success International has seen Leeds United launch a new website called Learning with Lucas. The content on the site is based around the life of South African defender Lucas Radebe and links children in Johannesburg and Leeds.

  Premiership players are also playing an important part in promoting family reading and encouraging attendance in public libraries, by acting as Reading Champions in a new league wide scheme called Premier League Reading Stars. Among the Reading Champions on the scheme are Sol Campbell, David James, Chris Kirkland and Carlo Cudicini. Each player selects his favourite book, which are then tailored into a national reading list. Every Premier League Club has adopted at least one local library where reading groups meet on a regular basis to discuss their book choices and make new selections. There is also the opportunity to access other facilities available in the library, such as computers and vocational courses.

  Clubs are also using their overseas stars to go into local schools to share their experiences of what it was like to start speaking different languages and talk to their children in their native tongue to encourage them. Newcastle United's French stars Laurent Robert and Olivier Bernard participate in a regular programme encouraging children on Tyneside to speak French.

  The Premier League is also providing education and training opportunities for those who are typically difficult to engage, such as the unemployed or young offenders. The Prince's Trust Football Initiative provides 12 week structured courses that incorporate activities that help unemployed 16 to 25 year olds develop the skills, confidence and motivation to find work, while gaining nationally recognised qualifications. Rio Ferdinand and Dion Dublin act as Ambassadors for the Prince's Trust, whose football courses are funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association. Other players, such as Frank Lampard and James Beattie, met participants on projects this year which has proved to be a valuable tool in motivating and retaining people on the courses.

  Footballers also help deliver a number of other projects in the community. Stars play an important part in promoting ethnic diversity and inclusion through football's anti-racism's programmes, helping deliver the important message that racism is not acceptable in football, sport or any area of society. For example, Blackburn Rovers have used defender Lorenzo Amoruso to support a project that encourages children from different backgrounds in the local area to visit places of worship in their community in order to promote better understanding of different cultures.

29 April 2004

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