The Chief Executive of the Palace for Life Foundation charity believes the Main Stand redevelopment at Selhurst Park would give a huge boost to the communities around Crystal Palace.
Mike Summers, head of Crystal Palace FC’s official charity, says the iconic new facility would generate a ‘virtuous circle’ of positive change for the area.
The Foundation has been working with the south London community for over 25 years, using the power of Palace to reach over 13,000 people each year and help change the lives of hard-to-reach young people.
In 2017, the Foundation engaged more than 6,000 children in 41 Primary Schools and over 3,500 youngsters took part in community schemes. In addition, more than 1,600 children attended holiday courses and over 1,000 talented youngsters played in college academies and elite programmes connected with the club.
Summers explained: “We believe that by giving extra support to the most vulnerable, we can create a better community and society.
“Our home, Selhurst Park, is in a vibrant and diverse area, but it is also surrounded by some of the more deprived localities nationally.
“We passionately believe that the redevelopment of the Main Stand will inspire and enable more young people to participate in our programmes. That will create a virtuous circle.
“Our current facilities at the stadium are inhibiting our ability to grow, and constraining our reach across the community.”
The Croydon Opportunities and Fairness Commission identifies poverty and inequality amongst the key challenges for the borough’s most deprived areas, while one-in-four residents consider crime to be a key issue.
The Foundation recognises these challenges and offers free sessions in sport and other activities as alternatives to anti-social behaviour, with a particular focus on gang violence and knife crime.
However, with limited space at the stadium, sessions are often delivered externally at venues which lack equipment and are unappealing to youngsters, something Summers is keen to change.
“The redevelopment will open up so many possibilities, with more inspiring space we could bring those young people into the stadium and give them an experience to remember, delivering more sessions under one roof.
“We’ll also be able to expand our range of offers to local people, so could explore running educational courses, host more employability sessions or provide facilities for young people to learn about healthier lifestyles.
Selhurst Park is at the very heart of the delivery of the Foundation’s work and a strong connection to Crystal Palace FC and its players is the driving force to engage with local young people.
Ultimately, Summers believes that the redevelopment would further raise the profile of Crystal Palace and the Palace for Life Foundation, meaning significantly more could be done to help local people.
He added: “The redevelopment at Selhurst Park will mean increased participation for our courses and programmes, which in turn will have a positive impact on our sponsors’ and benefactors’ desire to support our efforts and therefore allow us to hire more skilled workers to reach more people in need and deliver more activities: a virtuous circle.
“Ultimately, this will result in us helping more young people from across south London, changing more lives and generating a positive social return on investment across the whole area.”
Consultants Regeneris, who were commissioned by the club to assess the economic and social impact of the redevelopment plans, said in their report: “CPFC’s presence in Selhurst Park ensures that it can help provide a sense of belonging. The club provides a form of social integration and a shared sense of community spirit that enhance social capital and cohesion. The Foundation’s work can be seen as an additional way for the club to reach out to an area wider than football will enable it to”.
Members of the public are encouraged to submit their comments on the planning application to help inform the council’s planning committee’s decision, who are due to meet on 19th April 2018, by clicking here.
For more on the Selhurst Park redevelopment plan, click here.