Grassroots sports delivery and management charity, Active Communities Network, visited Selhurst Park yesterday to unveil research which shows the effectiveness of sport in engaging marginalised young people, tackling youth crime and reducing re-offending.
Their report, entitled ‘Urban Stars: Sport, Crime Prevention and Community Action’, was published following an 18-month research project conducted by the University of Gloucestershire.
Described as “an innovative, excellent project” by sporting legend Edwin Moses, Urban Stars uses sport to engage vulnerable young people who are identified as being cut adrift from mainstream society.
The research, which includes evidence from projects in Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark, in London, as well as the West Midlands and South Gloucestershire, was officially presented at the home of Crystal Palace FC in front of almost 100 guests.
Professor Andrew Parker, who headed up the project at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “This has been fantastic for the profile of the research as there was such diversity in the audience. There is the realisation that research has more to offer in terms of its everyday impact and it can be applied and it can be useful.
“The questions asked today were really helpful and it’s now all about continuing that conversation – I will use part of this research as a teaching and research tool which is fantastic for our students and an incentive for them to see what sport for development can do.
“Just having this resource in front of me to teach from is a great incentive and inspiration to know that our university does work on the ground with young people in sport.”
Greater London Authority member for Croydon and Sutton, Steve O’Connell, who was among the invited guests, said: “It’s absolutely vital for the council, for the mayor’s office and for the GLA to understand and recognise the vital work that Active Communities Network are doing.
“I was really impressed with the event because there was some good conversation between some really great practitioners of working with young people, of sharing best practice and presenting the case for the good work they are doing.”
Gary Stannett, chief executive of Active Communities Network, added: “This was a key event to inform the sector and wider arena of interest about the methodology involved in these programmes so we can develop a wider interest in how we use sport for urban development.
“Over the years we have always accepted that sport is a very, very good thing for young people and its good for communities. But we’ve always felt that while we accept it’s a good thing there has always been a lack of evidence – which this research goes some way to addressing.
“We have now extended Urban Stars to include Manchester, Belfast, Bristol and Glasgow and we will now continue the conversation in following up this research by targeting stakeholders from the grassroots through to MPs.”