A force-led football showpiece designed to improve young people’s lives is returning bigger and better than before.
Hundreds of young people from all corners of Nottingham will take to the football field this weekend to compete in a grassroots tournament organised by Nottinghamshire Police.
KickOff@3 is focused on using the power of sport to help youngsters unlock their potential – both on and off the pitch – with around 200 people competing in the seven-a-side football festival last spring.
As many as 700 people are expected to take part this time around, with games taking place across the full weekend, with extra age categories being added to allow younger invited players to play too.
People aged 10-17 will now be able to play across three age groups, while a girl’s league has also been created for the tournament, which will be held at Clifton Playing Fields, between 2pm and 7pm on Saturday (10 June) and Sunday (11 June).
The winning teams will qualify for the KickOff@3 national finals later this year, where they will be given the opportunity to showcase their ability in front of professional football scouts who will be in attendance.
As well as giving youngsters the chance to fulfil their sporting dreams, this weekend’s event will also help them away from football too, with a careers fair taking place where they can learn about and sign up to different college courses, clubs, and employment opportunities.
Age-appropriate virtual reality sessions will also be held, where attendees wearing VR headsets can run through life-like scenarios around knife crime and gangs, to help them make the right choices should they ever find themselves in the same position in real life.
Sergeant Jemma Connor-Iommi, who has organised the event on behalf of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “We are delighted to be able to bring back KickOff@3 to Nottingham, following the successes of last year, where we received real buy in from young people within the community.
“I am a real believer in the power sport can have in empowering young people and providing them with further opportunities, so it is a real source of pride that we’ve been able to open this event up to even more people this time around.
“We are expecting more than treble the numbers of players we had last year, which is brilliant as it means we will be able to provide more people with the platform to showcase their talents, while helping them realise their potential off the pitch too, which is really important.”
While the football side of KickOff@3 is by invite only, anyone can sample what’s on offer at the careers fair, where young people will be able to get advice on how to write effective CVs and any help they need to apply for jobs and college courses that appeal to them.
The police-led initiative will also provide another opportunity for the community to interact with officers in a different environment and hopefully improve trust and confidence for the police by showing people the human beings behind the badges.
Sgt Connor-Iommi added: “Sport has a really unique way of bringing people together who perhaps might not normally interact with one another, and all for a positive reason as well, so we are really pleased to provide this opportunity once again.
“For some of these young people, this could be the first time they’ve ever interacted with anyone from the police, or perhaps they might not have had a positive experience in the past.
“With this in mind, this type of engagement is incredibly important in breaking down barriers and helping build positive relationships between the community and the police, which can only be a good thing.”
Nottinghamshire Police will be joined at the event by a range of partners, including Nottingham College, the University of Nottingham and the Royal Air Force.
The event has been partially funded by Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Partnership, which is a partnership run by Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner that focus on early intervention to help reduce violence by tackling its underlying causes.
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry said: “Sport is a great way to bring communities together to build better relationships and give young people some positive activities that they can be proud of being involved in.
“Events like this help build trust and confidence in the community with the police and partner agencies. They also help people see beyond the uniform and help demonstrate that we are all ‘one team’ working shoulder-to-shoulder with the community to make our neighbourhoods safer and more enjoyable places to live.
"KickOff@3 was a great success last year and I'm proud to support it again as I think this is an event that will go from strength to strength."
Nottingham City Council
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service
Nottingham Express Transit
Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner
Nottinghamshire's Violence Reduction Partnership
Royal Air Force
The Skinny Food Company
UFC Gym Nottingham
Current world featherweight boxing champion Leigh Wood handed out medals to the winning teams at last year's event, and has sent some signed boxing gloves this time around to raise money for local food bank charity Clifton Community Warm Hub.
He said: "I'd like to wish all of the young people who are taking part in this year's Nottingham KickOff@3 event the best of luck.
"Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I'm unable to attend this year but I hope these signed gloves will be able to raise some funds for Clifton Community Warm Hub to continue the vital work they do."