Council offers Canaries a �200k boost

ian clarke Youngsters from across the county are to be handed the opportunity of a lifetime to turn their sporting dreams into a reality as part of an exciting new partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Football Club which was announced last night.

ian clarke

Youngsters from across the county are to be handed the opportunity of a lifetime to turn their sporting dreams into a reality as part of an exciting new partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Football Club which was announced last night.

A two-year sponsorship deal, worth �200,000 to the football club, will see the county council join forces with the Canaries provide a number of innovative ways to give youngsters a chance of winning their fight for fitness - and living the sporting dream at the same time.

As part of the deal budding young footballers, aged between eight and 16, are to be given the chance to win a place in City's Academy or the Girl's Centre of Excellence in a county-wide Search for a Star.

Other reasons the scheme is set to be a winner with youngsters includes:

A number of season tickets will be made available at Norwich City home games for young, disadvantaged people of all abilities and backgrounds.

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Children from Norfolk County Council residential children's homes will be the first to benefit from the initiative at tomorrow's League One season opener against Colchester United, as well as young people supported by the Break charity which helps vulnerable children and adults.

Schoolchildren will also be in with a chance of being selected as a county council mascot who will accompany the players onto the pitch at home games from September.

The county council will become an official partner of the football club and sponsors of the club's Youth Academy and the Girls' Centre of Excellence.

The council will also work more closely with neighbourhood initiatives run by Football in the Community (FITC) with an agreed set of community-based events for children and young people to be provided to inspire children from all over Norfolk to enjoy sport. One of the highlights will be the holding of a Mini World Cup tournament to link some of Norfolk's new communities with local residents.

The partnership will also see members of Norwich City's first team being made available to launch major council initiatives to engage with young people with the Carrow Road pitch also being made available on agreed dates for special occasions.

Club facilities will also be made available to promote public interest messages such as Safer Driving, promoting public transport, waste recycling and recruiting foster carers.

Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox, who will tell members of his cabinet on Monday in a report that the package he has agreed represents good value for money, said: “This is a tremendously exciting development which is good news for Norfolk and its young people and I am delighted that the football club has worked so constructively with us to make this possible.

“I want to support moves to encourage more young people to become active and I very much hope the idea of a competition which searches for stars of the future will inspire, encourage and reward young people who seek to achieve excellence in football.

“Norwich City already have a very strong presence in the community and by working together I am convinced we can reach out to young people across Norfolk and encourage more people to get out and get playing.”

Norwich City chief executive, David McNally, said the football club was looking forward to working more closely with the county council, as part of the new deal, and hoped it would have benefits for thousands of young people throughout the county.

He said: “We are excited to be partnering Norfolk County Council at such an important time for the football club. We absolutely share Norfolk County Council's ambition to encourage young people across the county to participate more in sport and strongly believe that together we form a strong team which can deliver positive results for all.”

He added: “We are committed to working closely to ensure that the football club is truly inclusive and open to all - and this partnership demonstrates our wish to develop that commitment further in the months ahead with a number of exciting and innovative new initiatives.”

Chris Hoddy, divisional director for care at Break, said he welcomed the partnership and hoped it would help inspire young people to get themselves fit and active.

He said: “We constantly seek ways to broaden horizons and increase positive experiences for our young people, particularly those within our children's homes.

“Just being able to go to a football match is a great opportunity for a young person - enabling them to have fun, relax and escape the pressures of their daily lives for a short time.

“As a charity the majority of our funds goes towards providing a high level of care for those in our care, so to be able to offer an 'added extra' opportunity for our young people, at no extra cost to Break, is a benefit for all involved.”

The programme is being funded from the council's Strategic Ambitions Reserve, set up to support initiatives linked to the authority's ambitions for Norfolk.

The ambitions are for Norfolk to be an inspirational place with a clear sense of identity, with a vibrant strong and sustainable economy and with aspirational people with high levels of achievement and skills.

Projects previously funded through the Reserve have included work on identifying young talent who could feature at future Olympics and the provision of healthy walks to encourage more people out and about.

Full details of the programme, which is being backed by the EDP, are still being finalised and will be announced in September.