The power of football is helping turn families’ lives around in Sunderland, say researchers

Lynne McKenna, Stadium of Light
Lynne McKenna, Stadium of Light
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THE power of football is improving lives in Sunderland, researchers claim.

Sunderland AFC’s charitable arm, The Foundation of Light, is helping children and parents improve their families’ lives, researchers from Northumbria University have discovered.

The foundation uses the power of football to involve, inspire and educate young people and their families and drive up aspirations and researchers assessed the social impact of three of its programmes.

A total of 45 parents and 12 children from four city schools were involved in the research, which found they benefited in many ways including learning new skills, reduced social isolation and gaining qualifications.

Those taking part also enjoyed increased levels of confidence and self-esteem which resulted in improvements in both physical and mental health, which in turn, led to better family relationships.

Dr Lynne McKenna, a principal lecturer at Northumbria University, said: “The people we spoke to fitted an immense amount of activities into each day and appeared to be very proud of where they lived.

“For the parents involved in this research, their children were paramount. Our research revealed that, although the schools were located in areas described as being in areas of deprivation, parents were in control of their own lives and their families.”

She added: “As football is part of the fabric of North East culture, this is clearly playing a key role in encouraging men to get involved. In the 21st century where the media focus is so often on bad parenting, the Foundation of Light is promoting the positive impacts of parents and children working together.”

Matt Hill, head of lifelong learning at the foundation, said: “This research demonstrates the real impact that our Wider Family Learning programmes have on communities, and more specifically, individuals’ lives.”

One of the participants in the project, Karen Brown of Silksworth, said the foundation programme had really improved her relationship with nine-year-old daughter, Megan, and spurred her to quit smoking and save the money to pay for the family’s first foreign holiday.

Antony Outhwaite, 42, who also lives in Silksworth, has lost more than three stone since joining the foundation progamme with his daughter, Ellie.

Twitter: @sunechoschools