Game on!

4 December 2021

How can football help us #KeepThePromise to bring justice to care-experienced young people? Football novice and Head of Services Michelle Lloyd explains how at the Hibernian grounds, sport is helping young people tackle inequality and build change.

Over the last few months Cyrenians has been working with partners* to develop and deliver a cracking new football project with care-experienced young people living across Edinburgh. Just one of the many ways Cyrenians is trying to ‘keep the promise’ by providing another avenue for young people to explore social justice and be seen beyond the inequalities they face. 

Football, you might be thinking - what’s that all about? And, as someone who knows virtually nothing about football, that is a question I’ve certainly asked myself a few times. At Norton Park, where Cyrenians Edinburgh office is, we share a car park with Hibernian Football Club, and for me football was often simply an inconvenience on match days when I had to make sure I was out of the building quickly to move my car before it was clamped. But even I now realise that football (other sports are available) is a fabulous ‘hook’ to engage with young people who are often excluded from the communities they live in.  

We already know through our work at Creative Natives, the immense power of the creative arts. Be it film, photography, animation, music or drawing, the arts help us to engage with, and support, young people who can often feel disconnected from mainstream schools and formal education. The power to express yourself, to explore your wellbeing, to share and be proud of your creativity is vital to our collective wellbeing. And, perhaps most importantly, it provides a means of building relationships and connections with your peers, with keyworkers and with volunteers and the wider community. 

Back to football… Game On aims to harness the power of football to help tackle inequalities and promote social justice with young people. A structured programme offers care-experienced young people aged 12 – 24 opportunities to build skills  

and explore different career and educational opportunties within the game and business of football. Depending on the young person’s interest, strengths and aspirations, the focus is much wider than simply being a player or a manager but also might include sports coaching, marketing and communications, hospitality and events management or groundkeeping. Each young person will also have a named Game On ‘supporter’ identified from the Hibernian ‘family’ who can support the young person to progress with their personal learning and develoment plan. 

At Cyrenians we are sharing our expertise by supporting young people to develop conflict resolution skills, build resilience and positive communication, to improve knowledge and skills in food education and to think about next steps in terms of further training or employability in this area. 

Young peoples’ views, opinions and aspirations are at the forefront of the Game On approach and are paramount to its success. By coming together partners hope that we can work together, sharing  values-based and trauma informed ways of working to help build the capacity of young people to influence change, empower them by showing confidence in their abilities and potential, and give them the platform to flourish and grow. 

It’s still early days but Game On is already teaching me there is so much more to the game of football. 

*Partners involved in this project include Thrive Edinburgh (part of Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership), Queen Margaret University, Hibernian Football Club, Hibernian Community Foundation and the City of Edinburgh Council