James Taylor is the Barclays Spaces for Sports Programme Manager at The Football Foundation since 2008. He studied Physical Education at Leeds Metropolitan University. Previously, he was a Business Development Project Officer in a local trust after University.
- How did the cooperation between Barclays Spaces for Sports (BS4S) and your Foundation start?
The Football Foundation is funded by the support of Premier League, the Football Association and the government (DCMS & Sport England) and this was a partnership programme with Barclays bank.
We aimed to link Barclays regeneration heritage with its commercial sponsorship property, to make a lasting difference to its communities, regenerating sports sites with sustainability crucial from the outset.
We have sites ranging from Astro turfs/3G pitches, BMX and skateboard tracks, tennis and netball courts.
Starting from January 2011, six regional members of staff were appointed to be Sustainability advisers for our sites that required support. There is a small pot of funding each site that receives a visit can access. The main focus is on sustainability which is the key objective of Barclays. We deliver grants to local sites that need help as soon as possible at a time when the funding climate is low and government cuts to sport development units. We also try to help them with volunteers, and sharing best practice.
- What are the greatest achievements of your cooperation so far?
Barclays Spaces for Sports is an award winning programme delivering 200 sustainable sports sites, giving more than half a million people across the UK the opportunity to benefit. It is the single biggest investment in grassroots sport ever by a private company in the UK, with investment in BS4S now totalling £67m. The monitoring revealed that there are only a very few reports on vandalism (one site – fire accident), which means that the community respects the sites we build. We have 53 thousand attendances on each site per week, the majority of our sites are open access, the participation rate of girls is 22% (the national is 13%). In cooperation with professional football clubs, we built 26 flagship sites at a cost of approximately £600k per site. We are proud that all of our sites remain open seven years after the programme started.
- It is an ordinary statement to say that sports can help the integration of immigrants, different ethnicities. Do you have any comment on that statement from a more practical point of view?
One of the most significant examples is the flagship program at the Manchester United site, called Old Trafford Sports Barn. Old Trafford is situated in the north of the borough adjacent to Moss Side and Hulme in Manchester. They share many of the same social and economic problems but Old Trafford lacks access to the same levels of external government support. it is the most disadvantaged neighbourhood in Trafford. It is a predominantly young population with more than 45% of residents aged under 30 compared with 36% in Trafford and 37% nationally. Old Trafford is also a very ethnically diverse community with 40 different ethnic groups identified in a recent study carried out into housing needs in Trafford by University of Salford. The activities available at the Old Trafford Sports Barn include: Badminton, Basketball, Volleyball, Netball, Cricket, Martial Arts, Futsal, Football Coaching with Manchester United, Female only sessions, Mixed ability sessions, Teenage Activity Sessions, Youth Club and School only sessions.
Sport also gives role models and interesting programs for the community. For instance in Coventry, two rival gangs play football together, and as a result their antisocial behaviour goes down. On the pitch, you can control what happens, but it is not possible outside of it. On the other hand they know that if they cause trouble, they could get banned from the program.
- How would you define the power of sports, and football in particular?
There is no doubt that sport is very powerful. Barclays has many different corporate social responsibility programmes, but Spaces for Sports is one of the most complex ones. It can engage a range of issues such as disability, poverty, obesity etc. in one programme, which is really appealing for a corporate. BS4S has high disability usage, it is targeting low income families, and is also employing local people. Using football is an efficient way to tackle gang culture too. It is the world’s most popular sport. It is easier to tackle a problem through fun. Football is fun, so everyone should get out there, get active!