The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Welsh Football Trust (WFT) have joined forces to form an initiative called Project FUTSAL, which aims to utilise football as a social inclusion tool in order to facilitate community regeneration.
Funded by the Ireland Wales InterReg IV Programme 2007-2013, the overall target of the project is to provide education and work opportunities for young people in disadvantaged areas. It also aims to influence and assist community regeneration via employment and volunteerism through sport.
Project FUTSAL (which stands for Football Used Towards Social Advancement and Learning) is a three-year plan. Resources will be invested in 12 communities, at especially arranged hubs in the Republic of Ireland and Wales, and involves the sharing of best practice between the FAI and the WFT.
All 12 hubs, seven in the Republic of Ireland and five in Wales, are expected to be opened by the beginning of 2013. Each one is an education centre where an equal number of male and female participants get personal development, football coaching and volunteer work placements to enhance their employability or chances of going on to further education.
Additionally, pan-disability football teams are attached to each hub. Another important aspect of the scheme is research that is being undertaken on the effectiveness of football as a tool towards social inclusion and learning within disadvantaged communities.
Project leader Derek O'Neill said: "The research element of the project is hugely important to us in that it's the first time a study has been carried out looking at the power of football to impact social inclusion and community regeneration. The hope is that by the end of the project we'll have some form of documentary evidence that will show the power of football to affect these things."
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