Rio Ferdinand calls for Government to help young people with community funding

The Government can “move the dial” by diverting funding to working-class communities, football star Rio Ferdinand has said.

Ferdinand said it can be difficult for young people to “stay away from trouble” when there is a lack of resource and opportunity.

The former Manchester United player established the Rio Ferdinand foundation in 2012 to promote opportunities for young people to achieve their potential through participation, personal development, training and engagement.

The foundation has worked in Northern Ireland and Ireland since 2016, and in 2022 extended this work through the Beyond The Ball programme in partnership with the International Fund for Ireland to build relationships and youth leadership between England and the island of Ireland.

“I’m from a council estate in south London and you go back to the council estate that I’m from there’s no funding,” he said.

“There’s no funding for youth clubs, there’s no new funding for youth centres, after school time from three o’clock until about seven, eight o’clock when kids finish school and parents finish work, there’s a three, four hour swing that young people have got to go and do what they like.

“And it’s difficult to stay away from trouble when you’re from certain areas with certain influences.

“And if you’re taking resources out of a community for those specific hours, what are you expecting the young people to do? There’s going to be problems.

“So you need the Government to start putting the money in the right places, and that’s one of them, there’s other areas, but that’s one of them.”

Ferdinand said a lack of affordable housing was one issue contributing to the breakdown of communities.

“Affordable housing, where are these young people going to live?

One Young World Summit
Rio Ferdinand believes a lot of young people just deserve a chance for a good start in life (Liam McBurney/PA)

“These are things that the Government can really, really move the dial on but choosing to put the money, shifting money elsewhere, or their focus is elsewhere.”

He urged the Government to increase funding to the “right people” and the “right foundations”.

“There’s loads of kids who are in care who just fell out of education, the Government are almost saying like, yeah, you’re gone. That’s it, you’re done.

“These are people that can be real, real big pillars in our communities if you give them the opportunity, if you can help rebuild these people, if you can give them confidence.

“And there are enough people out there wanting to do it. (But) just don’t have the resources to do it.

“I’m lucky I’ve got a foundation that’s been built but I’ve had to have a profile, I’ve got a career like I’ve had to get to this point. Not everyone can do that. There’s people that want to do it, but they can’t.”

Ferdinand said that despite popular rivalries, football is a “big unifier of people”.

“Football does divide people when you talk about fandom, like when you’re a fan of a team, ‘I don’t like that team’.

“I don’t like certain teams, like I don’t like Liverpool really, as a football team when I played, I didn’t like them, that’s because there’s a rivalry.

“But I think that football, in general, when you’re talking about grassroots and growing up as a young, impressionable young person, football is bringing people together.

“Where I grew up, all kids from different cultures are playing football in the same area. It did kind of break the ice for conversation to create friendship groups, etc.

“So that’s the kind of the basis of which the foundation was built on.”

He added that the foundation helped young people to realise that an interest in sport could translate to a range of careers.

One Young World Summit
Rio Ferdinand thinks the UK Government can do more for young people (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Well, what other jobs are there in there, it’s about us opening their eyes to that.

“You can be a journalist, you can be a physio, because you haven’t got to be the footballer or the person on the stage. There’s so many different areas where your interest lies.

“So, it’s really about educating the young people in that sense as well.”

The former United and England player spoke at the One Young World summit in Belfast on Thursday about his work with the foundation.

Ferdinand said it was “amazing” to give a speech at the global summit alongside a representative from Beyond the Ball.

“It’s just really about the foundation and just understanding that young people do need hope, do need encouragement, and confidence built around them to feel that they can be a real positive part of the community,” he said.

“Because I think a lot of the time, at the moment, especially in England, young people get quite a bad rap in the media.

“There’s some negative stuff that does go on but also, you look at the news in the media, and you’re thinking that there’s not really many solutions that are being pushed forward for young people.

“So hopefully, we’re that bridge that are trying to kind of do that and push that narrative.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Building stronger communities is a vital part of levelling up. That’s why we’re supporting projects across the UK with levelling up funding designed to give young people more opportunities, jobs and community facilities.

“That includes over £14 million to support 66 community centres through our community ownership fund.

“Our ambitious long-term plan for housing will build the quality homes this country needs, and since 2010 we’ve built almost 660,000 more affordable homes – over a quarter of which are for social rent.”

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