Community football event stengthens connection between police and young people

Youth footballers at the Kick Off event in Luton
Image: Bedfordshire Police

More than 160 young people took part in a grassroots football tournament as part of an initiative to encourage a stronger relationship between local police and young people in the community.

The event took place on Wednesday, 31 May at Lea Manor playing grounds in Luton and was led by the county’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU).

The tournament was hosted in partnership with Luton Town Football Club Community Trust and was part of the KickOff@3 scheme. Co-founded by serving Metropolitan Police officer, Michael Wallace, KickOff@3 aims to improve relationships between youngsters and the police force through a shared enjoyment of football.

Previously held in Kempston in 2019, the tournament returned to Bedfordshire, this time hosted in Luton following the town’s historic weekend celebrating Luton Town Football Club’s promotion to the Premier League. 

Open to under 12 and under 14 year olds across the county, 15 mixed and all girls teams attended the six-a-side sporting event to compete for a place at the national finals. 

Just before the kick off, players, coaches and spectators were invited to take part in a minutes silence in memory of those who have lost their lives to violent crime or those who are suffering from mental illness.

“We saw partners come out to raise awareness of key social issues, police show their support and positively engage with young people, while players enjoyed a great day of competitive football clearly still beaming from Luton Town’s big win,” explained Mr Wallace.

“I would like to say well done to all the teams that came on the day and huge congratulations to our winning teams Luton Kickz and Luton Allstars, who will be competing for the winning spot at the national finals this summer.”

All those who took part were awarded a Luton Town medal, while the runners-up and winning teams were presented with a trophy by Bedfordshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Dalgarno.

VERU has a number of funded community projects such a Boxing Saves Lives who offered attendees a boxing lesson between matches.

Tasha Case, VERU’s community engagement lead, said: “I’m thrilled with how the day went and would like to say a huge thank you to our co-organisers Luton Town Community Trust, as well as Bedfordshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for showing their support.

“Joining forces with Kick Off@3 embodies our core aims to prevent violence and exploitation while offering young people engaging activities. We saw established clubs play alongside teams that had never played together before, all coming out and having a great time while being encouraged to pursue their goals.”

The chairman of newly promoted Luton Town FC, David Wilkinson, was also in attendance as a show of support for grassroots football.

“It’s fantastic to see the passion these young people have for the sport. It’s still astounding to say this town is now home to a Premier League football team,” said Mr Wilkinson.

“Today’s event really showcases how football can bring different communities together and be used as a medium to convey important messaging.

“I’m pleased to have been able to show my support and see how the promotion is already positively impacting the wider community.”

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