A community football initiative based at UCLan Sports Arena is celebrating after attracting more than 230 players across 19 teams over the last three years.
The Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre partnered with UCLan and UCLan’s Students’ Union to design the initiative that opens up football to all regardless of experience or ability.
The scheme originated as a charity in 1999, providing football coaching to four to 16-year-olds, including disabled children and now has developed into a full functioning club with several age group teams from under sevens up to and including under 14s.
Chair of the club, Peter Mason, and his wife Kate, started the club with the vision of bringing football to young people from all communities in Preston, regardless of their ability, disability, sexy, colour, race or religious belief.
They teamed up with UCLan and the Lancashire County Football Association in 2013 to pilot the FA community Hub Club development scheme.
Now the club is celebrating the success of 19 established teams including two women’s open age teams, an adult men’s team and four disabled men’s teams, and also provides football coaching sessions for homeless people.
It takes players who couldn’t get places in other teams or who couldn’t afford the fees of other clubs due to their social backgrounds, and has a non-competitive coaching session attracting 80 children on Saturday mornings, allowing young people to gain coaching qualifications and valuable experience.
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Peter Mason said: “The key driver behind the Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre is to bring young people from all walks of life together and give them a chance as part of Sir Tom’s legacy of ‘football for all’.
“Regardless of their ability we want to encourage young people to play competitive sports, build up their confidence and stay healthy.
“If the children don’t wish to play competitively they can still attend our Saturday morning sessions.
“It’s also fantastic to see our young coaches and UCLan students develop as they build up experience, trust and responsibility.”
The University has also been successful in creating a referee hub consisting of 14 student referees and around 40 UCLan students volunteer with the Centre in coaching, video analysis and social media roles.
The venture was recently awarded a £20,000 grant from the Football Association (FA) to develop its workforce an hopes to grow to 1,350 members by next June, with almost a third being made up of female players.
You can get involved with the Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre via the website.
Have you or your children been involved with the football club initiative? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below