A local sports coach for Walsall FC Foundation has received a national award for his work supporting young people who are at risk of falling into the criminal justice system.
Martin Manley from Walsall is this year’s winner of the StreetGames Community Safety Award, which recognises individuals or organisations who have gone above and beyond to create safer and more inclusive spaces within their localities.
Martin has been working at Walsall FC Foundation for over ten years. He joined the foundation as a young person and started as a trainee apprentice, eventually working his way up to his current role as Community Engagement Manager. In recent years, Martin has worked tirelessly to develop new interventions to support vulnerable young people and has done some outstanding work to enhance the local community’s safety and reduce the likelihood of vulnerable young people being involved in violence and crime. In November 2019, Martin accessed the Premier League Kicks programme from the Premier League Charitable Fund, but initially struggled to engage young people from the immediate vicinity. Undeterred, Martin accessed support via StreetGames to develop referral pathways in and out of the provisions he set up to help guide young people in the local area towards the support they need.
In 2020, utilising the learning and support from StreetGames, Martin successfully applied for a Sport Diversionary Inclusion Programme fund to provide activities and mentoring for at risk young people. Initially, numbers from the local area were low, and the 14+ cohort was not engaging. So, Martin formed a partnership with a local youth and community organisation called Youth Connect, which had been working in the heart of the local area for several years and had developed considerable trust with local young people by delivering detached, outreach and centre-based youth work. Through this partnership, youth workers worked alongside Walsall FC coaches to deliver doorstep sports sessions for young people in the local area.
2021 and 2022, the Walsall Foundation successfully received further funding from StreetGames via the local VRU contract, which led to the development of the Walsall Violence Prevention & Sport Programme in 2022-23. This programme saw 4 local groups, including Youth Connect and Wallsall Foundation, working across Palfrey, Caldmore and Pleck to develop secondary-level interventions for young people vulnerable to entering the Youth Justice System and being involved in violence. The programme led to a nearly 100% increase in weekly doorstep sports sessions across the Local Authority, going from just 15 to 29, and a 250% increase in intentionally designed targeted secondary work from 4 to 14 weekly sessions. Martin and his partnership work was central to this programme’s success.
Mark Lawrie, StreetGames’ Chief Executive, said:
“We know that young people living in low income, underserved communities face real challenges and are more vulnerable to becoming victims or perpetrators of youth crime. Sports-based interventions can help break this cycle and provide the support and mentoring that young people need.
The work that Martin and Walsall FC are doing to support young people in the local community is a brilliant example of the difference sport can make, bringing people together and providing positive role models and support for young people.”