A new football tournament in Blackburn has helped to connect vulnerable people who are participating in a behavioural change programme with public sector workers and others in their community.
David Bayliff, support mentor for the Challenge Through Sport Initiative (CSI), organised the "Breaking Down Barriers" tournament. He said that the goal was to “build some relationships, smash some stigma and remove some barriers." The initial idea was to have a football match with members from the local council and police to play against individuals on their recovery journey. David said that bringing these groups together was intended to show that “we are all human beings, regardless of background or profession.”
David said that the interest from other organisations “snowballed” leading to the formation of six teams with players from: the Police, BwD council, Public Health, DIVERT, United Together, Thomas Project, Islington House, Salvation Army, Canterbury House and Howarth House with the groups who were originally supposed to play against each other ending up on the same team.
Lisa Brown from Islington House, who provide sheltered accommodation for the homeless and vulnerable, said the residents are “on a joint team with the local town police officers and PCSOs just trying to break down those views of ‘us and them’ and try to help them rehabilitate.”
PCSO, Sam Cheyte, said “It’s nice to see them outside of a work setting when normally you’re speaking to them and dealing with stuff that isn’t fun. Hopefully if we have to deal with them again in the future we can say ‘oh I played footy with you last week’ and it breaks down that barrier.”
“I don’t think you can measure the impact something like this has” said Public Health Development Manager, Colin Hughes. “We’ve got people who work in a professional capacity, we have people who are accessing the services. It’s about inclusion, it’s about breaking down barriers, it’s fantastic.”
Luke, a resident at Islington House said “It gives us something to do, takes us off the street from commiting crime and from doing silly things that we shouldn’t be doing. It benefits us all that way”. When asked how it was to be on the same team as the police Luke said “They’re lovely people! I’ve been running with them instead of away from them!”
Wayne Beck, from Creative Football who brought volunteers to facilitate the tournament, gave a closing speech before awarding the winning team saying “The power of football is underrated. We’re bringing people together; no matter what background, where we’re from, whatever you’ve got - you come on the football pitch, you pass the ball and you’re somebody’s mate instantly”
As for the future of the event, David said “The event was a huge success, everyone who attended gave great feedback and have expressed interest in making it a regular quarterly event.”
On behalf of CSI, thank you to everyone who attended and congratulations to DIVERT FC who took home the trophy!