FA Premier League and England Handball look to the future

Premier League 4 Sport Launch 2013
Richard Scudamore, Maria Miller MP and Nick Bitel at the Premier League 4 Sport Launch

England Handball continues and expands relationship with British Government and FA Premier League
Further three years of ‘Premier League 4 Sport’ announced

England Handball joined forces with the British Government and the FA Premier League at the announcement of a further £16.8 (€19.5) million investment to help encourage youth sports participation in England for a further three years.

PL4Sport (Premier League for Sport) has been delivered by the Premier League, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust since 2009 and it aims to turn FA Premier League football clubs into sport hubs linked to local community sports facilities which encourage young people to try out non-football sports.

The announcement, attended by England Handball Chief Executive Officer David Meli, took place at the Evelyn Grace Academy (school) in Brixton, south London with the English FA Premier League and British Government grassroots sports department Sport England.

Funding will be equally split with each partner committing £1.3m a year to PL4Sport and £1.5m a year to the successful social inclusion programme Kickz for a further three years.

Handball, alongside badminton, judo, table-tennis, volleyball, basketball, hockey and netball is part of PL4Sport, which will have a target of creating 590 satellite sports clubs around England.

“This partnership has really gone from strength-to-strength,” said Meli at the launch.

“It has been a really a fantastic opportunity for us as a small sport, alongside some of the other more mainstream sports, to get a chance to showcase our sport and link with the Premier League.

“Premier League for Sport is still growing and this new funding announcement gives us the opportunity to link up with more clubs across a wider sphere and geographical area.”

Sport England and the Premier League, alongside their partners, first combined in 2009 to create PL4Sport, which has now engaged 60,000 young people and created 320 satellite clubs across the country.

A further 270 satellite sports clubs are due to be created by the 12 sports which initially involved badminton, judo, table-tennis and volleyball, before being doubled to eight with the addition of handball, basketball, hockey and netball and a further four sports – athletics, boxing, golf and tennis – announced with this new funding.

Premier League for Sport aims to not only introduce young people to sport but to keep them engaged in it when they leave school and it uses the ‘power’ of the Premier League brand to attract young people to try out a different sport.

“Using the Premier League brand is great, because it allows and attracts people in and gives them a chance to try something new,” said Meli.

“This is very much an embryonic starting point for us and whilst the Premier League link helps undoubtedly, it’s also about us working with our national league clubs to show how they can grow and link into a satellite club programme, a local club, or even a Premier League club – this is absolutely fundamental to what we want to do and how we grow the sport.”

Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the British Government is hopeful that the continued link-up will continue the momentum from the 2012 Olympics.

“This move will help us leave a real sports legacy from London 2012,” she said at the launch.

“Premier League clubs have great pulling power and this partnership with Sport England will encourage thousands of young people to try out different sports – it also shows how the private and public sectors can come together to strengthen community sport across the country.”

Whilst handball may have had its Government funding cut at the elite level, with British Handball not receiving any funding for Rio 2016 and beyond, the Chair of Sport England, Nick Bitel is confident that they can do their bit and push to create a new generation of handball players.

“This partnership will help sport to change the lives of tens of thousands of young people,” he said. “We’re determined that every young person should have opportunities to discover a sport that excites them and inspires them to develop a sporting habit for life.”

This habit for life is something that England Handball are very keen to pursue and the continuation between England Handball and the Premier League working together will only serve to enforce this.

“It’s very much a partnership,” said Meli. “The Premier League knows their clubs and the power of their brand.

“For example, with Arsenal FC we would send one of our coaches into one of their existing community programme sports sessions, or we could train their coaches to get a qualification in coaching handball – either way it’s all about getting more people playing,

“With handball, kids aren’t waiting around to play – five minutes for an introduction and then you’re playing; it’s a very simple game to play.”

Meli is excited about the future of England Handball with participation rates nearly quadrupling over the past three years to 13,000 regular players alongside a 13% growth of clubs affiliated to England Handball.

“There’s no doubting, if you’re talking about the Olympic legacy of sports in Britain,” said Meli, “that we are one of the few sports that have seen that and we have the power to grow even more.”

The simplicity of the game, combined with a wide range of qualified coaches and the support of Sport England and the Premier League all points to a healthy future for the grassroots development in England of the second-most popular team sport in Europe.

But the potential to see England adopt similar sporting club setups like FC Barcelona, Győri ETO Sport Club or HSV Hamburg with this extended partnership is obvious and already, on the ground, Premier League clubs are planning towards this.

“We’ve chosen handball as one of our focus sports and we’re really excited about working with England Handball,” said Leanne Dingle, Head of Development at the Fulham Football Club Foundation.

“A lot of our football coaches are really keen to learn handball and as an ‘invasion’ sport, like football, there’s lots of movement and you have to be very athletic, so there is a synergy between football and handball.

“All of our coaches delivering handball will be in the full Fulham FC kit, and we see it as a way to draw them in to playing – we would love to have our own handball side representing Fulham FC in our full team strip and we hope to play the Chelsea and QPR handball teams and beat them every time!”

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