Today’s columnist, Andy Hogg: Helping to kick out boredom

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The football season is now well under way and depending on your colours, no doubt you will already have a feel for how your team is going to fare.

Football is a great way to unite people, as is sport in general, which is why five years ago we launched a free sports project for 10- to 19-year-olds.

This project is SportFX South Yorkshire which celebrated its fifth birthday on November 4 with an event to show case achievements since it started out in Goldthorpe to combat anti-social behaviour.

The South Yorkshire Police-run project now engages with more than 50,000 young people every year through 28 football, boxing and dance sessions at 18 venues across the county.

The aim is to give young people the opportunity to get stuck in to positive activities and learn life-long skills such as team-building and discipline.

Within my Sheffield North East local policing team area, young people attend sessions at Firth Park Academy and Fir Vale Academy Trust.

At Fir Vale, there are football sessions from 6pm to 8pm on Fridays as well as a boxing session from 6pm to 8pm on Tuesdays and a dance session from 6pm to 8pm on Fridays. Over those five sessions up to 200 young people can attend and engage with us in any one week.

At Firth Park, young people can attend football from 6pm to 9pm on Thursdays and dance from 6pm to 8pm on Thursdays.

Feedback from the young people who take part and officers who work in these areas is that SportFXSY really does improve community cohesion.

This was backed up by a recent report which looked at incidents of youth-related anti-social behaviour within 1km of each venue. The report showed reductions of 51 per cent at Fir Vale and 25 per cent at Firth Park year on year.

We cannot say for definite that the reduction is a direct link to SportFXSY or that levels of anti-social behaviour have dropped outside this radius, but these figures are very encouraging.

If you are aged 10 to 19 or you have a son or daughter this age, please do have a look at our website and go along to one of our sessions.

It is free to attend and it doesn’t matter what area you live in, you are welcome to attend any of our 28 sessions across the county.

As well as learning sports and communication skills, there is an opportunity to work towards a recognised qualification.

There is no doubt that anti-social behaviour often occurs as a result of boredom or lack of provision within communities, so here in Sheffield North East, there is no excuse.

We know that there is a lot of work to be done but we are continuing to engage with communities and this is just one of the ways that we are doing this successfully.

None of this would be possible without funding and support from our external sponsors, which include Sheffield & Hallamshire County Football Association (S&HCFA), England Boxing and South Yorkshire Sport.

For a full list of sessions visit South Yorkshire Police SportFX session times