An exciting new programme from Sport England and the Football Foundation, funded by the National Lottery, will support Stockton and Thornaby to get more active.
Active Through Football is providing North Riding FA with the funding to increase participation in football. North Riding FA succeeded through a competitive process to secure the funding, which was open to applications from communities who face some of the greatest inequalities to being physically active.
The funding will focus on driving participation from residents in the Roseworth, Hardwick and Salters Lane, Newtown, Stockton Town Centre, Parkfield and Oxbridge Wards in Stockton, plus Mandale and Victoria, Village and Stainsby Hill Wards in Thornaby. The scheme has four target audiences, namely: females, ethnically diverse communities, people with learning disabilities and people with mental & physical health conditions.
Whilst the programme is part of the national Active Through Football initiative, locally the scheme will be branded as ‘Shape the Play’, reflecting the support of local community members in helping to shape the nature of the funding bid and their ongoing involvement in helping to conceive and deliver the programme moving forward. Indeed, key-members of the local community have been recruited as ‘Directors of Football’ to help promote the programme in their area and encourage participation in the scheme.
Andy Clay, Football Development Manager of North Riding FA, said: “We’re delighted to have secured this funding which will improve access to a new range of football-inspired fitness activity for people living in Stockton and Thornaby, where inactivity levels can run as high as around 50%.
“From day one, we’ve engaged with the local community to understand what types of activity would encourage them to sign up and developed our programme around that feedback. For example, many people told us that the traditional model of an organised game of football wasn’t for them, so watch this space for a range of innovative and engaging football-inspired sessions that aren’t necessarily what you might expect. It’s football but not as you know it!”
He added: “The programme is as much about improving mental health and well-being - offering activity that encourages people to get together and socialise – as it is about improving overall fitness and wellbeing”.
Paul Surtees, CEO of EPIC Teesside and Director of Football for Shape the Play commented: “I’m delighted to be involved with a scheme that will encourage people in my community to come together and get more active. The activity has been tailored around the desires of each community – as opposed to a “one size fits all” model - so I’m confident that this scheme will encourage people to join in, get fitter, improve their social interaction and mental health and have a lot of fun doing it!”
Cllr Jim Beall, Chair of Stockton-on-Tees Health & Wellbeing Board said: “We know that physical activity is good both for the body and the mind so we welcome the significant extra investment locally, knowing that it will provide great opportunities for people in the community to engage in football-inspired fitness, have fun and make friends. There are no barriers to getting involved – even if you’ve never played football before you can give it a go.
“We know that services are taken up more if they are delivered locally and designed by local people, so we’re delighted to be a partner in the Shape the Play programme, and I’m really looking forward to it all kicking off - pun intended!”
Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England, said: “There is a reason why football is followed and played by so many the world over. It brings people together and helps build connections in communities. It’s also the sport that is played the most in England and has a reach into places where our research shows activity levels are lower.
“Sport England is proud to be one of the funding partners helping to tackle these inequalities and to support more people from a variety of backgrounds to enjoy playing football and all the benefits that brings.”
Robert Sullivan, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “This grant award to North Riding FA is fantastic news for the local community in Stockton and Thornaby. Football is a game for everyone - regardless of their background - and it’s only right that people across all walks of life are able to play the nation’s favourite game.
“Over the past 21 years, we have been working with local authorities up and down the country to ensure everyone has access to high quality pitches.
“Thanks to Sport England National Lottery Investment, this new project will help to transform people’s lives by developing a range of football-inspired fitness activities in Stockton and Thornaby, unlocking the many benefits of football for the community.”