Boro goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos with Premier League Kicks participants and staff (Credit - Norm Willey)Cleveland Police have praised Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation’s contribution to reduced antisocial behaviour in some of the most deprived areas of Teesside.

Targeting more than 1,000 eight- to 19-year-olds each year, the Foundation’s Premier League Kicks project delivers sport sessions such as dodgeball, table tennis and football, and a variety of music, arts and social workshops. The sessions take place every weekday evening, at 11 Teesside venues – including some of the 1% of most deprived wards in the UK.

Cleveland Police have recognised the positive impact of the diversionary and developmental opportunities Premier League Kicks provides for young people.

David Sutherland, Chief Inspector for the Middlesbrough Integrated Neighbourhood Team, said: “In the areas of Newport, Park End and Pallister Park in particular we are seeing notable reductions in the number of antisocial behaviour reports of between 3% – 22%. This in itself is really positive.

“But I also see the benefits that Kicks sessions provide in terms of providing opportunities for Police Officers and PCSOs to engage with young people in a more positive and less formal environment. This is helping to break down barriers and improve understanding and mutual trust between the Police and young people.

“Hopefully by continuing to build on the positive working relationship we have developed so far we can deliver some excellent opportunities for young people whilst making a difference to the quality of life for people living in Middlesbrough.”

The Premier League Kicks project, which exists thanks to combined funding support from the Premier League, Tees Valley Community Foundation, Trinity Youth and Children’s Project, and Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger, celebrated its tenth birthday at a special ceremony at the Riverside Stadium last week.

Young participants from the project were joined at the ceremony by their family and friends, as well as Kicks coaches, ambassadors, members of the local police force, and staff and volunteers from local community centres.

Plus, Boro ‘keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos made a special guest appearance at the event, which featured demonstrations and videos of Kicks activities and as a Q & A session with the young people.

Ten outstanding Kicks participants, recognised for their exemplary attitude, attendance and contribution to their weekly session, were awarded an individual trophy and a Boro 2015/16 home shirt with their name on the reverse.

Premier League Kicks, which started life as a small pilot between the Premier League and the Metropolitan Police a decade ago, is now in action at 56 football club community organisations throughout the UK, and reaches out to more than 50,000 young people each year.

Kicks was first introduced to Teesside by MFC Foundation in 2006, at a Pallister Park launch featuring an appearance from Stewart Downing.

Helena Bowman, Head of MFC Foundation, said: “The ceremony was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the successes of a decade of Kicks, and give all those in attendance chance to see the positive impression that Kicks is having on Teesside.”

“I’d like to once again extend our thanks to the Premier League, Tees Valley Community Foundation, Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, and Trinity Youth and Children’s Project for allowing us to deliver Kicks, and make a lasting change to the lives of young people in our region.”

Marcus Nicholas, a 17-year-old participant at Premier League Kicks, said: “I’ve been coming to Kicks for about five years. I have more social skills and talk to people more. We play football, table tennis, and dodgeball, and it’s just fun to be here. It keeps me off the streets and from causing mischief.”

Nick Perchard, Acting Head of Community Development at the Premier League, said: “Over the last ten years, Premier League Kicks has become a nationwide success story, and it is fantastic to see first-hand how MFC Foundation and the project are making such a positive impression on otherwise hard-to-reach young people on Teesside.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “I am pleased to have supported the MFC Kicks Programme to enable them to deliver their fantastic sessions in the community.”

“The sessions have not only deterred young people from a life of crime but also been a catalyst for them to re-engage in education, employment and training.”  

“The 18,000 participant contact hours involving more than 850 young people in the last year is a credit to the programme, and I hope the excellent work can continue in the future.”