Saturday, November 7, 2009 - 11:11

The Eden Project, four south-west football clubs, the Football League Trust and Cisco Systems are teaming up on a Comic Relief-funded project to help homeless young people gain the skills and confidence to improve their lives.

The Great Grass programme, which was launched today (November 7), will see participants attend courses at their local football club. These will improve their playing and coaching skills and also teach them about other aspects of the football business such as catering, ticketing, grounds maintenance, marketing and physiotherapy.

Initially, the programme will be run at Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City, Bristol Rovers and Bristol City with a view to expanding it to more clubs in the coming years. At least 195 people will take part in the first year, with many more predicted to attend in the future.

As well as gaining practical skills, Great Grass aims to help its participants grow in confidence, live a more structured life and play a more active role in their communities.

Everyone who completes the course will get a football coaching qualification and a Cisco Networking Academy accredited NVQ level 2 award, giving them both football coaching and ICT qualifications to help them in their future search for jobs.

The course will conclude with a visit to Eden as part of the project’s Great Day Out programme for homeless and excluded young people, and everyone who completes Great Grass will be presented with a special football kit.

Jodie Giles, Eden’s Great Day Out Programme Manager, said: “This is a fantastic partnership which has the potential to change people’s lives. Great Grass is about more than football, it’s about building confidence and skills that will help some of the hardest to reach people in our society get into training and work.

“The idea evolved from the success of the Great Day Out programme at Eden, which uses fun inspirational days to motivate socially excluded people to make positive changes. Football clubs are already massively successful community hubs, so we are very happy to share our experience and support them to work with young homeless people in a holistic way.”

John Relish from the Football League Trust said: “Football League clubs have grown over a number of years to help combat many social issues within their local communities and I am delighted to see such a worthwhile project be rolled out to the South West clubs. It goes to show that by using the power of Football League clubs you can really engage societies and address issues such as homelessness. This is a unique project that I envisage will bring much success to the region's agencies that are currently tackling homelessness."

Peter Argall, Comic Relief's UK Learning and Development Manager, said: “Sport Relief is delighted to be awarding this grant of £140,000 to the Football League Trust in partnership with the Eden Project. The Trust is a valuable source of support for young homeless people in the South West, and we are very excited to see this new partnership put the expertise of these fantastic organisations to good use. It will help young people who really need some support and encouragement to get into a more secure way of life.”

Great Day Out is a programme where Eden hosts small group visits from agencies that support some of the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach people in our community. By providing inspirational, neutral ground we aim to break cycles of exclusion and help people make positive change. Each Great Day Out is tailor-made to compliment the work of our partners but most include a tour with chances to look behind the scenes and meet the people who make Eden tick, as well as a workshop enabling participants to get hands-on and immersed in creative and therapeutic activities. We also support our partners to do follow-on work back in the community, to create lasting impacts.

The Football League Trust was set up to oversee community and youth development activities at Football League clubs. Using the power of football, they aim to make a difference to the lives of people by providing them with the best possible opportunities and recognising their achievements to inspire them both inside and outside of the game.