PREMIER LEAGUE 4 SPORT`S SUCCESS BRINGS FURTHER INVESTMENT

Graeme Le Saux joined Richard Scudamore and Olympic gold medallist Darren Campbell and silver medallist Gail Emms to celebrate the success of Premier League 4 Sport this week.

The pioneering sports participation programme, initiated by the Premier League and implemented by the Chelsea Foundation and top-flight football clubs, has exceeded original targets by over 50 per cent.

Premier League 4 Sport was introduced in September 2009 with the aim of engaging 25,000 young people in Olympic sports on a regular basis in the lead up to this year's Olympic Games. The programme has seen Chelsea Foundation coaches offering sessions in table tennis, judo, badminton and volleyball. Since its introduction, Premier League 4 Sport has resulted in a 25 per cent increase in the uptake for those four sports.

A joint venture between the Premier League, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust, the programme initially received a £3.8 million investment but due to the scheme's success there will now be a further £2 million in funding.

The extra money means four new sports have been introduced to the initiative, which now includes handball, netball, basketball and hockey.

'Adding another four sports to the programme proves that what we introduced two years ago has worked,' said chief executive of the Premier League Scudamore, 'now we want building on that success.

'Chelsea were one of the very early adopters of the initiative and they have gone out, done the work in their local communities, utilised the sports' governing bodies, developed clubs and Chelsea provided excellent coaching.

'We started with a target of engaging 25,000 people in meaningful participation, not just one-off activities. We have managed to engage 39,000 so far so we're very extremely happy. Now we're extending the programme hopefully we can extend the numbers,' added Scudamore.

Le Saux has a go at Judo and throws Darren Campbell

In Essex, the Chelsea Foundation has seen over 700 participants, aged between 11 and 19, take part in Premier League 4 Sport since 2009 and 40 of those youngsters have earned themselves Young Leader Awards and Young Official Awards.

'It's been a fantastic initiative,' said Premier League 4 Sport project manager and Chelsea Foundation coach Zak Wooster. 'Not only have the children received awards but it's allowed us to train up 35 coaches in Level 1 badminton, table tennis and handball.

'Chelsea is not just about football. The club pulls the children in and the competition stays the same as we play against other clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and national teams, but these children want to play for Chelsea, no matter what the sport is.

'If kids are given the opportunity to play sports, they will play them. By getting into the schools and providing these coaching sessions for free, the children have been coming and getting involved, the figures show that,' added Wooster.

Representatives from Great Britain's table tennis, handball, judo and badminton teams were at the event and Le Saux tried his hand at each of the sports. The former Blue was impressed by Premier League 4 Sports success and insists that extending the initiative can only have positive effects for children across the country.

'There are countless opportunities to engage with people once you have the hook, which is sport,' said Le Saux.

'The values you learn through playing sport are invaluable, such as respect for yourself, for your opponent and for the equipment and also having the responsibility to turn up and be part of a team and not let people down. There are a lot of lessons you can learn through playing sport.

'Football is obviously the country's number one sport but using the club to pull these children in to try other sports is fantastic. With over 700 participants taking part with the Chelsea Foundation coaches alone, it shows how successful this initiative has been across the country. Hopefully now we can keep them engaged in sport and keep them active and healthy into adulthood,' he added.