There were high fives all around as young people from across South Yorkshire came together to celebrate the fifth anniversary of a police sports project.
SportFX South Yorkshire (SY) went back to its roots in Goldthorpe last night (Wednesday 4 November) for a party to mark five years since the launch of free football sessions.
The project has gone from strength to strength since starting out at the Dearne ALC in 2010 and is now hosting 28 football, dance and boxing sessions at 18 venues across the county.
To celebrate, more than 200 young people who attend SportFXSY were invited to join special guests for a six-a-side football tournament, boxing and dancing workshops, as well as an awards presentation, at the school where it all began.
Police Community Support Officer Craig Butcher is head of SportFXSY for South Yorkshire Police.
He said: “It’s an absolute honour to be part of this celebration and look back at how the project has grown.
“The success of SportFXSY is down to the dedication and commitment of the team as well as the positive attitudes of our young people.
“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved over the last five years for helping us reach today’s milestone, developing the skills of so many young people in the process.”
In 2010, former Inspector Alan Simpson along with the Safer Neighbourhood Team that covered Goldthorpe launched SportFXSY in partnership with Barnsley Football Club’s Community Trust. The aim was to provide positive activities for ten to 19-year-olds and deter them from anti-social behaviour.
In 2013, the team joined forces with Sheffield & Hallam County Football Association (SHCFA) and SportFXSY expanded across the county.
Now, with the help of ambassadors Howard Webb and Paul ‘Silky’ Jones as well as partners, South Yorkshire Sport, England Boxing and the local schools, SportFXSY is engaging with thousands of young people every year.
Former World Cup referee Howard Webb said it was a privilege to be an ambassador and added: “I am proud to be part of the team that developed SportFX in Barnsley into an 18-venue cross-county initiative.
“This project now engages with more than 2,000 young people each week, which is absolutely fantastic.
“I would like to congratulate not only everyone who has won an award, but also every PCSO, volunteer and participant who has contributed to making SportFXSY the success it is today.”
Boxing ambassador and former World Light Middleweight champion Paul ‘Silky’ Jones added: “I am proud to be part of SportFXSY. Boxing isn’t just about keeping fit it’s a great way to learn about discipline, respect and dedication and anyone can do it.”
Special guests on the night included Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee, Barnsley FC footballers Alfie Mawson and Lewin Nyatanga and Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings.
Assistant Chief Constable Lee thanked the team and said: “SportFXSY is a huge success and everyone involved should be incredibly proud of themselves.
“Through sport, our young people are engaging in purposeful activities and many will make life-long friends in the process. There is no doubt that SportFXSY really does make a difference to their lives.”
Dr Billings added: “I can think of few other organisations that make such a difference to the lives of young people who are often living in our most challenging areas.
“I hope it continues to go from strength to strength.”
SportFXSY is possible thanks to external funding from SHCFA, England Boxing and South Yorkshire Sport.
Richard Finney of SHCFA said: “On behalf of the County FA may I congratulate SportFXSY on its fifth anniversary. The work SportFXSY does is fantastic.
“Our partnership, through the FA’s Mash Up project, has ensured many at risk of offending young people have the opportunity to channel their energies in a very constructive way and to play football in their local area at no cost.”
Stuart Rogers of South Yorkshire Sport said: “It’s a fantastic achievement to reach the five year milestone while consistently delivering an excellent service.
“What is really impressive is that the project has grown each year and gone from strength to strength.”
Alison Gregory, associate legal executive of event sponsors Irwin Mitchell, said: “As a firm we support a number of projects as our way of giving something back to the community.
“SportFXSY is a very worthwhile project and fits in with our Don’t Quit Do It campaign which promotes the benefits of engaging in sport.
“We are delighted to be a part of this special occasion.”