Support through Sport UK spoke to Birmingham’s Get Into Football Officer, Gemma Kehoe, about Birmingham’s Get Into Football Initiative …
Hi Gemma. What are the aims of the Get Into Football Programme?
The Get Into Football Programme focuses on growing and sustaining players and teams playing the beautiful game. Our main aim is to directly influence the evident decline in 16+ participation within the Birmingham area. We are working with various initiatives such as Just Play, Team 19 and the FA Fives to try to attract more players into the game. Our other aim is to work with our current clubs and community working groups to either affiliate the mass participation that they already have or to try to sustain and grow their teams within the current league pyramid systems.
Is it a national programme or is it just particular to Birmingham?
It is a national programme with 33 officers across the UK. Currently, we are very proud to be one of the leading counties in terms of the effect we've had on 16+ participation since our posting.
Who are you trying to ‘get into football’? Just young people – or are you looking to increase the number of older people playing soccer too?
Our main aim is to increase participation for 16+ age groups - so our focus is currently on adult and veterans football. However, none of us are naive in thinking that we can always work from the top down and so we are very aware and very focussed on trying to implement our work into the 14-16 age bracket too. This will hopefully increase future 16+ participation.
Are you also trying to increase the number of women who are playing football?
Women are a key focus for me - especially within my team of three - our aim being to really focus on attracting more women into the game. We are currently looking at various additions to the mainstream game - e.g. using fitness in football and music in footbal as a way of attracting more women into the game. We understand that there are various factors that do prevent women playing football at certain times in their lives, hence we are looking into things such as child care arrangements for those who require it.
And disabled people?
My main passion lies within disability football and I currently have my own project outside of work (but still within the programme's aims) where I'm trying to encourage more disability players into football. I have a team, which is currently made up of a variety of disabilities - ranging from physical amputees to psychological autistic spectrum adults. We play 11-aside football in a mainstream league. I link closely with the local disability league and use them as a tool to exit route better players into my 11-aside team. We also use this team to bridge the gap between club and national development squads and have a very close working relationship with signposting talented players into national representative squads. We hope to grow the female section this year, and hopefully a youth section the year after, in order to expand, develop and enhance the opportunities for disabled people in Birmingham.
Finally, why would you encourage people to get involved in football?
Football is our beautiful national game. We have the best league in the world and we should endeavour to nurture the players at a grassroots level that could potentially be thefuture players within that league. Our aims should be to want to play this great game as it offers such an amazing social, physical and psychological outlet; it should be on everybody’s agenda. It doesn’t matter what your ability level is - there is always a level to play at. Many are often scared they won’t be good enough - but there is always a place somewhere. If you have even the smallest passion to play or to develop socially, football should be the sport to turn to no matter what your gender, race or ability level. There are no barriers in football; there is an opportunity for every single person - just get in touch!
Many thanks for chatting to Support through Sport UK, Gemma. Your interview was so inspiring that Support through Sport UK is now going to head out to have a kick-about!