Around 160 young people took part in a community football tournament aimed at building better relationships between the police and the community.
Wednesday’s (31 May) event saw 160 young people descend on Lea Manor playing grounds to take part in the event led by the county’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU).
Tasha Case, the VERU’s community engagement lead, said: “I’m thrilled with how the day went and would like to say a huge thank you to our co-organisers Luton Town Community Trust, as well as Bedfordshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for showing their support.
“Joining forces with Kick Off@3 embodies our core aims to prevent violence and exploitation while offering young people engaging activities. We saw established clubs play alongside teams that had never played together before, all coming out and having a great time while being encouraged to pursue their goals.”
Hosted in partnership with Luton Town Football Club Community Trust, the free tournament formed part of the national initiative KickOff@3.
Co-founded by serving Met police officer Michael Wallace, KickOff@3 aims to break down barriers between the community and their local police force through a shared love for sport.
Open to teams under 12 and under 14 across the county, 15 mixed and all girls’ teams attended the six-a-side tournament to compete for a spot at the national finals.
Ahead of kick off, players, coaches and spectators were invited to take part in a one-minute silence in memory of those the community have lost to violent crime and ill mental health.
“Wednesday’s event encompassed so many things that show just how special the community of Bedfordshire is, and I can’t thank the VERU and Luton Town enough for their support in pulling it all together,” Mr Wallace said.
“We saw partners come out to raise awareness of key social issues, police show their support and positively engage with young people, while players enjoyed a great day of competitive football clearly still beaming from Luton Town’s big win.
“I would like to say well done to all the teams that came on the day and huge congratulations to our winning teams Luton Kickz and Luton Allstars, who will be competing for the wining spot at the national finals this summer.”
“As fantastic as they are, our goal isn’t achieved at the end of these tournaments. What we want to see is Kick Off@3 be the catalyst for long-term relationships built between communities, the police and all partners involved. We must keep the momentum going, and create a legacy that positively affects future generations to come.”
All participants were awarded a Luton Town medal, while the runners up and winning teams were presented with a trophy by Bedfordshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Dalgarno.
A number of the VERU’s funded community projects were also in attendance including Boxing Saves Lives, who offered attendees a punchy boxing lesson between matches.
Previously held in Kempston in 2019, the flagship tournament returned to Bedfordshire, this time hosted in Luton following the town’s historic weekend celebrating Luton Town Football Club’s promotion to the Premier League.
Club chairman David Wilkinson was also in attendance as a show of support for grassroots football.
“It’s fantastic to see the passion these young people have for the sport. It’s still astounding to say this town is now home to a Premier League football team,” said Mr Wilkinson.
“Today’s event really showcases how football can bring different communities together and be used as a medium to convey important messaging.
“I’m pleased to have been able to show my support and see how the promotion is already positively impacting the wider community.”
Huge shout out to all the teams that attended on the day
Under 14’s teams
- Luton Allstars Blue *Winners*
- Luton Allstars Yellow *Runner-up*
- Kempston Rover Colts
- Kick Action Academy
- LTFC Kickz
- Denbeigh Boys
Under 12’s teams
- LTFC Kickz B *Winners*
- Luton Nations A *Runners-up*
- Dunstable Town Youth Eagles
- Luton Allstars Vipers
- Luton Nations B
- Luton United
- St Joseph’s Vaders
- Young Carers