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Two football tournaments took place in February half term as part of the [email protected] youth engagement initiative.
The seven-aside matches included both boys and girls within two age categories, 13-to-14-year-olds and 15-to-16-year-olds.
[email protected] was created and established by a serving police officer with the Metropolitan Police. The Multi-Cultural Association (MCA) and the Equality and Inclusion Department of Staffordshire Police decided to come together and launch this initiative in the county.
The preliminary rounds were ran at Port Vale FC and Burton Albion FC. Stoke City FC had to cancel their tournament due to the weather conditions but this is planned to be rearranged for a later date.
These well-established clubs currently run the FA Premier League flagship community programmes called ‘Kicks’, and these have been used for the preliminary rounds to draw teams to take place. Neighbourhood Policing Teams have also worked in the community to engage with young people and encourage them to take part. The winners of these rounds will then take part in the Staffordshire semi-finals in May. The top team from each age group will then attend the national tournament in London.
Staffordshire Police Superintendent Ricky Fields said: “By engaging with young people through [email protected], we can build trust, confidence and positive relationships between the police and the local community. We can increase engagement and diversion with the community as well as providing a safe and professional environment for young people, with particular focus on those from diverse backgrounds.
“We have recognised that partnership working is key to the success of a well-run programme, therefore we decided to link in with three of our main local football clubs, Stoke City, Port Vale and Burton Albion, as well as the Staffordshire Football Association.”
Adrian Hurst, Head of Community at Stoke City FC, said: “Stoke City Community Trust is delighted to support the [email protected] initiative. For several years we have held tournaments during the school holidays as they have proved popular with our partner agencies and especially with the young people. We are really looking forward to partnering with Staffordshire Police on this project and providing the young people with an excellent opportunity.”
Tom Sherratt, Head of Community at Port Vale FC, said: "Hosting this tournament has been a great opportunity for us and the local community and it's also been good to work with the [email protected] Team and Staffordshire Police.
“The tournament has shown that there's a huge range of talent here in Stoke-on-Trent and we're happy that we get to give the teams an outlet to show their talents."
Paul Gaskin, Health and Inclusion Manager for Burton Albion, said: “We are really excited to be part of this national initiative, linking in with Stoke City Community Trust and Port Vale Foundation, to provide opportunities to young people in Staffordshire. We’re hopeful this project will benefit the wider community of Burton, reducing anti-social behaviour by giving young people the opportunity to take part in positive activity.”
Gareth Thomas, Communications and Relationships Officer for Staffordshire Football Association, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Kick [email protected] initiative, in partnership with Staffordshire Police, Stoke City, Burton Albion and Port Vale.
“Our role in the initiative to date has been to support the refereeing elements of the project, with our Referee Development Officer, Matthew Jones, providing practical advice and guidance to the Kicks staff/participants and PCSOs ahead of them officiating at the local tournaments.
“In addition to providing them with guidance and confidence to officiate at the local events, we are also looking to organise a full referee’s course for anyone involved in the Kicks programme – not only to support them with their work on the Kicks programme – but to hopefully get them involved in refereeing regularly across grassroots football in Staffordshire too.”
Any money raised from the Staffordshire tournaments will go towards the nominated local charity Ruff and Ruby who aim to raise aspirations of young people through innovative programmes and services.