This month Essex Police, Kick Off @ 3 and Active Essex brought young people from across the county together for an unforgettable football tournament. The project uses sport as a vehicle to build relationships between young people and the police.
On October 2nd, 190 young footballers braved the wind and rain to play in 7-a-side competitions at the EJA Ground in Great Baddow. Each team brought together young people from a wide range of backgrounds, who may not otherwise have the opportunity to play in a county wide competition such as this. These teams included ATF from South Essex, Changing Lives’ teams of refugees and asylum seekers from West Essex, Coaching Champions’ team from Mid Essex and a team from Colchester United’s Football in the Community programme.
Kick Off @ 3 is a charity initiative, founded by Met police officer Michael Wallace and youth worker Ashley Levien in 2017. Together with the local police in each county, they run football tournaments across the UK, with the aim of building trust between young people and the police, as well as promoting the physical and mental well-being benefits of sport, as well as the importance of inclusion. At the event, Michael Wallace said: “We are more than just football, we are community, and we are there to give young people opportunities. Football is the cog of engagement, to building key relationships and trust.” He also emphasised his pride at seeing both young men and women playing together, saying: “For me, one of the key things is girls that are taking part. We’re about inclusivity, whatever race, religion, culture, gender, ability, disability, we’re all one family!”.
The Essex Kick Off @ 3 tournament was funded through the Active Essex Foundation via the Local Delivery Pilot Fund. Here at Active Essex we strive to strengthen communities, working collaboratively with local partners to ensure the power of physical activity and sport can transform lives. As such, we also brought in community organisations from across the county, offering children and young people from deprived areas and different backgrounds the chance to come together in their teams and enjoy a day of football. Active Essex Relationship Manager, Louise Voyce spoke at the event. She said: “It’s amazing to see so many young people here today. At Active Essex we are really keen to see young people getting out, getting physically active and breaking down those barriers. […] I know Essex Police are keen to get to know all the young people here and see how they can support you in the future.”
At the event, Police Officers not only supported and cheered on all 19 teams, but also joined in with friendly games, had photos taken with their local teams and spoke to young footballers during downtime! Detective Superintendent Claire Talbot led the organising team of officers in setting up the venue and preparing for the event. She said: “It’s so important that we get to understand and to work with young people during fun times like playing football and sport, rather than the first time we might speak to young people is when we’re out on the street. It’s important that we build confidence in young people to talk to police officers and that we can build those relationships with hem so that they can come to us if they need anything.”
Take a look at our video to see the day in action!