Sport can bring people together in a way that nothing else can and the team at Pompey in the Community (PitC) are using a range of sports and activities to give young people across the city something to do, somewhere to go and something to aim for.
CEO Clare Martin and her team are passionate about their youth inclusion programmes which give children the chance to learn new sports and hone their skills under the Pompey FC name.
Clare said: ‘The idea is that we use sport as a tool to engage young people and from there they are encouraged. Once they have participated for a while they can become volunteers and they can get qualifications.’
Louis Faith was one such youngster who went along to the sessions when they first started in 2009 in Bransbury.
The 24-year-old said: ‘When I was young it was all about ‘you stay in your area’ and if you cross over you were a traitor.
‘So this is really all about breaking down barriers between stereotypes, religion and using sport as a tool and as a platform for young people to learn and to broaden their minds.’
Louis got involved with the programme after the Barclays Space for Sports programme and the Football Foundation funded a new sports site at Bransbury Park in Eastney.
He said: ‘After the Bransbury Park site was developed, me and a big number of my friends would constantly hang out in the local area, going from Milton Park to Bransbury Park to the beach, and it meant the area became a whole new era for sport in the city. It generated a load of sports participation and reduced anti social behaviour in big numbers.
‘I was part of that anti social behaviour so I saw the decrease first hand from what we were doing.
‘We went from having organised fights and doing daylight robbery to getting involved in the sports programmes like boxing, going along to national tournaments and watching England play.’
Louis has since become a youth worker at the charity through their volunteer qualifications schemes.
He helps to run over 40 free sessions throughout the week across the city including football, tennis, boxing, tag rugby, flash mob dance and basketball.
Clare said: ‘It is all open access and free for the kids. Some of the youngsters just come along, some come through the youth referral team, some are referred through the police, some through the schools ... it just depends entirely.’
PitC also works with other organisations across the city, including Motiv8, to provide one-to-one sessions.
Clare said: ‘ The whole idea through this work is to bring the whole community together. So often with the youngsters they may have their differences but because they are having fun together they forget those differences.’
PitC works under the brand of Portsmouth FC and youths in their programmes can win merchandise and tickets to games.
Clare said: ‘We are at a real advantage because we have the brand and the kids will come for the first time because of the brand. They stay because they enjoy it but quite often the initial engagement is what is difficult and that is what the brand gives us.
‘It is like a magnet.’
Recently the organisation were awarded the Checkatrade Community Club of the Year south-east prize during a ceremony at the House of Commons.
Clare was joined by Pompey Chief Executive Mark Catlin and midfielder Ben Close, who started in the programme when he was 10 years old.
Clare said: ‘I’m immensely proud of my team.
‘PitC is more important now than ever.
‘We’re reaching so many people and so many diverse groups of people.’
The organisation will go up against other regional winners to try and win the national title.