Teenagers in Caerphilly are getting their sporting kicks thanks to a new project set up in the town to tackle anti-social behaviour.
British Transport Police (BTP) has established a number of initiatives over the past six month aimed at providing activities for youngsters to get involved with, in the process blowing the whistle on anti-social behaviour.
The latest project has seen BTP officers teaming up with Gwent Police and Cardiff City Community & Education Foundation to bring Premier League Kicks to Caerphilly.
Lewis Parsons, a Welsh Government-funded Community Support Officer on British Transport Police’s Cardiff Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “Caerphilly has experienced its fair share of anti-social behaviour, especially on Friday evenings and during school holidays.
“We speak regularly to youngsters in the area and are frequently told there isn’t much for them to do – they tend to be too young to go to pubs and clubs, but are a bit too old for youth clubs.
“So, working in partnership with a number of local agencies, we set about organising a series of meaningful activities for youngsters to take part in.
“Having successfully trialled a series of street rugby sessions at Owain Glyndwr Park in August, we then established the Fab Friday project, a free multi-sports event held weekly at Twyn Primary School.
“Building on the success of these initiatives, we are now delighted to bring the Premier League Kicks project to Caerphilly.”
The Premier League Kicks campaign was established in London in 2006 by the Premier League and the Metropolitan Police Service, in order to bring communities together and to engage with young people. It is now run by 50 clubs across England and Wales, in some of the countries’ most deprived areas.
“One of the key aims of these ongoing initiatives is to help teenagers become more aware of how their behaviour impacts on the communities they live in,” said Lewis.
“It’s about energising them and channelling that energy in the correct way via sport, not through messing around on the streets or on the railway.
“Providing teenagers with meaningful, regular activities helps make them less vulnerable to making bad decisions and, subsequently, less likely to get involved in criminality.”
He added: “Since we started assisting Premier League Kicks sessions held in Caerphilly at the start of the New Year, we have seen numbers grow each week and have noticed a marked difference in behaviour and attitude.
“As a result of their hard work and in recognition of the significant improvements in their conduct, a number of the youngsters have had the opportunity to attend a league game at the Cardiff City Stadium, while ten of them were recently chosen to represent Caerphilly in a football tournament at the club’s House of Sport.
“On each occasion, BTP officers took the group by train from Caerphilly to the Cardiff City Stadium, which gave us an opportunity to put into practice some of the rail safety knowledge they’d picked up over the course of the previous weeks and months.
“Despite coming up against older and much bigger opponents, every one of them performed brilliantly throughout the tournament, and it was a pleasure seeing them expressing themselves on the pitch.”
Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews said: “The role played by the additional 500 Welsh Government-funded CSOs is invaluable. They contribute to an increased presence on the streets alongside police officers and CSOs funded by the police. This helps to work as a deterrent to tackle low-level anti-social behaviour and crime.
“Initiatives such as this engage young people and encourage them to become part of the community within which they live. I applaud Lewis and his colleagues in British Transport Police’s Cardiff Neighbourhood Policing Team on making this the success it has become in their area.”
Kris Hames, of the Cardiff City Premier League Kicks project, said: “This event has attracted many disengaged youths who are now engaging through sport and are no longer causing trouble or acting in an anti-social way. The rapport between the youths and the police has developed so much over the past few weeks.
“It’s brilliant for the surrounding area. The kids who have previously had nothing to do in the evenings, now have a lot to do thanks to the excellent work of British Transport Police and Gwent Police.”
Premier League Kicks is held for FREE every Thursday, for 14 to 19-year-olds, from 7pm to 9pm. Golf sessions take place at Virginia Golf Club, Caerphilly, between 7pm and 8pm, followed by football at Caerphilly Leisure Centre from 8pm to 9pm.
The Fab Friday Project is held every Friday between 6pm and 8pm at Twyn Primary School. Each session is open to boys and girls of all ages, with free entry.