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North Yorkshire Sport & Spartans Community Football Academy Providing Opportunities Through Sport

Beyond Sport X Under Armour Participant Spotlight

July 21, 2023 

In celebration of our new #SportForSocialChange retail donation campaign in partnership with Under Armour which kicked off in stores in the UK last month and will ultimately expand across Europe, this month we’re highlighting the eight participating UK charities that are using sport to inspire and teach valuable life lessons to youth. Today, meet North Yorkshire Sport, which is tackling barriers to physical activity, so people live longer, healthier more independent lives in York, England and Spartans Community Football Academy, which is delivering youth work, education and health and wellbeing programmes in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

In North Yorkshire, the number of inactive adults increased by 3.49% during the pandemic, a trend which followed through to young people in the region. Participation rates have improved since COVID-19, but challenges of employment and social isolation remain as barriers to activity for many. Research from the Centre for Cities think tank found that unemployment in North Yorkshire is almost 14% - compared to the official rate of 4.1%, which doesn’t include the 300,000 who are involuntarily out of work. The current cost-of-living crisis in the UK has exacerbated financial difficulties, which exists as an additional barrier to sport and physical activity for many. In the region, child poverty is now the highest it has been since 2000/2001.

The cost-of-living crisis has also impacted Scotland heavily. 1 in 5 children in Edinburgh live in poverty and an increasing number of citizens rely on food banks. Rates of poverty within the city vary between 5% to 27%. An estimated 9% of residents are struggling to get out of debt, while 9% find it ‘very difficult to cope’ with their current income. These challenges heavily impact people’s prospects. Pupils from disadvantaged areas in Edinburgh record poorer educational outcomes than their peers in more affluent areas.

North Yorkshire Sport 

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Founded in 1999, North Yorkshire Sport (NYS) Ltd is a registered charity covering seven districts in North Yorkshire and York in England with an overall mission to promote and encourage increased participation in sport and physical activity. The charity uses sport to drive positive change and help build stronger communities by using it to tackle barriers to activity such as health, employment, disability access and poverty.   

The top challenges young people face in the region include increased mental health issues arising from factors such as academic pressure, social isolation, family issues and financial difficulties, which are contributing to higher stress levels, anxiety and depression. This is worsened by limited access to educational resources, employment prospects, extracurricular activities and community support networks, as well as a lack of community connection - all perpetuating cycles of disadvantage.

NYS works across all ages and backgrounds, specifically supporting those that are most in need. The charity believes that everyone should experience good mental wellbeing through sport. It supports this through fundraising campaigns, providing free resource packs that encourage physical activity and explain the importance of mental health and wellbeing and more.

“A sense of belonging within a community, access to community facilities, safe recreational spaces and positive social networks specifically for young people is important, without these in place youth feel disconnected and marginalised,” explained Director of Development, George Cull.

Through key partnerships, NYS ensures that its young participants are safe, happy and able to achieve their full potential and the people in the region live longer, healthier, independent lives. Additionally, it provides programming and activities such as free kids' meals during the holidays, ways to alleviate boredom and anti-social behaviour – elements that are related to increased violence and criminal activity – and mentorship. 

As an example, the charity worked with two brothers who were struggling with school and whose attendance was poor. NYS athlete mentor, James Kirton, who helped them set goals to help them get on better path with their education and lives. NYS also enabled one of the brothers to rejoin the local football team after improving his poor school attendance.

“NYS exists to reduce inequalities. We use the power of sport to engage with young people. Our work isn’t about creating future sports stars, it is about using the lessons and values from sport like teamwork, determination and resilience to empower youth to give them the skills and confidence as they approach adulthood,” shared Cull.  

With funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour campaign and seed funding provided by the retailer, NYS plans to engage more youth in York to increase its impact. It will expand mentoring to more young people and connect them with opportunities in their communities.

Spartans Community Football Academy 

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Though Edinburgh is an affluent city, there are some concentrated areas of deprivation in North Edinburgh on par with the most deprived areas across Scotland. It is in these areas that Spartans Community Football Academy works to deliver positive social impact and change through the power of people and sport. Since 2008, the Academy’s charitable arm, the Spartans Community Foundation, has been working with the local community and partners to provide new opportunities for more people to participate in sport and physical activity, as well as to provide more learning and development opportunities. 

Recognising that it is “here for good”, the organisation is re-defining what is possible for a football club whilst positively impacting health, employment and crime reduction, and ultimately, strengthening community cohesion. It is based in Pilton, North Edinburgh, which is home to some of the most deprived areas in the UK and a community with significant needs. The Scottish government developed a small area of geography to measure deprivation called data zones. Each data zone in Scotland averages 750 people. North Edinburgh has 36 data zones. 14 of these zones are in the most deprived 20% of Scotland where there are higher levels of unemployment, lower incomes and lower than average educational attainment. This is reflective of the challenges facing many in the region such as food and fuel poverty, poor housing conditions and a lack of benefit support. 

“We know that involvement in sport brings with it a host of positive health and social outcomes. Our youth and children’s provisions are always free and this helps remove barriers to participation and the associated stigma of being unable to access leisure and social activities,” said Commerical Growth and Funding Relationship Manager, Dan Gerrard

The core of the Foundation and Academy is focused on improving access to opportunity and the growth of prospects for all. It delivers a wide range of sports programmes, including football, basketball, cricket, table tennis and more. The programmes focus on education, youth work, physical health and mental wellbeing as well as providing a safe place to play, socialise and have fun – ultimately providing a ‘social home’ for people of all ages and backgrounds. The Foundation works closely with local schools and delivers in classrooms on a daily basis where the young people enjoy the provision, safety and reliability of the organisation's work. 

“Our organisation is part of the social fabric of people's lives, a place where they feel a tangible sense of pride and belonging. For many of our young people, it has been their place of refuge while they have navigated the challenges that life has thrown them. Sport helps both physical and mental wellbeing.” 

A part of the charity’s efforts is "youth work", which supports youth development, nutrition, education and much more. Initiatives include clubs that provide free school meals and breakfast, free travel and trips around Scotland – which for many is the first time they’ll travel beyond Edinburgh – and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities and educational courses. “If the Academy wasn’t there, we’d have nothing to do. We’d probably be getting into trouble in the local community. Spartans has changed our lives,” shared participants. 

The funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour partnership will help the Foundation expand its youth work and create increased opportunities for safe spaces for young people to have fun, socialise, interact and develop as individuals. A portion of the funds will also go towards the charity’s Education and Youth Work building, which will include a sensory room, a room for critical ‘one-to-one' work, a dining kitchen area and a large room for pilates, yoga, dance, martial arts and fitness.

Learn more about the incredible organisations we're working to support in the UK HERE. If you live in Birmingham, London, Manchester, Liverpool and York in England or Edinburgh in Scotland, please consider visiting your local Under Armour store to support #SportforSocialChange! 


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