LE SAUX HELPS LAUNCH NEW PREMIER LEAGUE & SPORT ENGLAND CAMPAIGN
Former Blue Graeme Le Saux and coaches from the Chelsea Foundation joined representatives from the Premier League and Sport England on Tuesday to launch an exciting new partnership.
The new relationship will see thousands of youngsters across the country benefit from £16.8 million of funding, driven through the expansion of the Premier League 4 Sport and Kickz programmes, with each partner committing 50 per cent of the revenue over three years.
To celebrate, coaches from Chelsea, Fulham and Southampton joined Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore, Sport England Chair Nick Bitel and British Olympic sprinter Adam Gemili at the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, where students were coached in a range of sports, including football, golf, basketball, table tennis and hockey.
'The essence of what the Premier League and Sport England are doing is using football to deliver other sports and engage with young people to play these sports,' Le Saux said. 'It's not always about finding which children are good at sport, but giving them access to it. With the help of Premier League clubs there is a wonderful opportunity to support other sports.
'The connection football has with the community are very apparent, but to encourage coaches to get more qualifications in other sports cost money and the power football has to open the door is fantastic, and says a lot about the responsibilities the Premier League is taking.
'Everyone wants to deliver a legacy we've heard so much about from the Olympics and give people opportunity to engage with sport and form communities.
'Sport is a great way of communicating different messages and I am really proud to be a part of it.'
Sprinter Gemili, who reached last summer's Olympics 100m final despite only taking the sport up six months previously, spent time in the Chelsea Academy before switching to athletics, and believes the scheme will help other kids experience alternative sports.
'I was at Chelsea for eight years and moved on to Reading and Dagenham & Redbridge,' explained the 19-year-old. 'The biggest thing for me was trying something new. A lot of people see the superstars, but the conversion rate from Academies and school is not a lot. There are so many youngsters that could be a superstar in other sports, it's just giving them the opportunity to try it.
'Initiatives like this are great to help you try 12 other Olympic sports, as well as football. I still love playing football, but last year I ended up representing GB at the Olympics. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. You just have to push yourself and work hard.
'Being at a club so long taught me a lot of discipline. The coaching staff and facilities at Chelsea were all amazing and if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be the person I was today. I took that discipline and hard work into athletics, and it definitely helped. It's a big part of who you become.'
The commitment to community is the latest from the Premier League and its clubs, who Scudamore says have made important contributions all over the country.
'Our clubs have a fantastic track record in terms of investing in and committing to a wide range of good-cause and grass-roots initiatives,' he said. 'Premier League Kickz and Premier League 4 Sport - both part of our Creating Chances programme and focused on sports participation - are hugely successful examples of that and have benefited thousands of young people in recent years.
'The increased investment announced today, along with the expertise brought in by our new partner Sport England, provides our clubs with the opportunity to take these projects to the next level and get more young people playing sport across the country.'
Maria Miller added: 'Premier League clubs have great pulling power and this partnership with Sport England will encourage thousands of young people to try out different sports. It shows how the private and public sectors can come together to strengthen community sport across the country.'
Nick Bitel is excited at the prospect of change for many thousands of underprivileged youngsters. 'This partnership will help sport to change the lives of tens of thousands of young people. We're determined that every young person should have opportunities to discover a sport that excites them and inspires them to develop a sporting habit for life.'