Mayor of London Sadiq Khan made a visit to The Den on Tuesday morning to witness the work of Millwall Community Trust in supporting local children and young people.
Khan engaged in sports activities and a Q&A session with children on half-term multisport school courses, was introduced to classroom initiatives led by the Trust, and addressed the media throughout his visit.
“I welcome wholeheartedly what Millwall are doing here for young people,” the Mayor says.
“I’m so pleased to be supporting this initiative from Millwall Community Trust, with the club doing huge amounts. We have to invest in young people and give them constructive things to do – over the last nine years, we’ve seen youth centres close down across London, youth workers lose their jobs, and young people left to hang around street corners without a great deal to do, which isn’t good enough.
“That is why I’m really pleased to visit Millwall and see for myself how they are invested in young people. Giving children activities to participate in during school holidays also keeps them busy and active – I complain about the levels of obesity in youth, and giving these people things to do during half-term, as Millwall are doing here, is a step in the right direction. I was keen to come for myself to see and support the good that the club are doing, that isn’t always reported on.”
Lions Chief Executive Steve Kavanagh has spoken in detail regarding the tireless work of the club behind the scenes, highlighting the importance of football as a healthy and safe environment for local communities and youth.
“[Initiatives such as these] are happening day-in, day-out here. It’s important that our politicians understand this, and look to use and engage in this and work with us,” Kavanagh states.
“I’ve said to the Mayor that they need to use football. To have that vital backing and funding can enable us to find a different way of dealing with the issues that he has on his plate, and he can then understand what we’re doing and deliver it.
“Football is a fantastic engagement tool. Once you engage people, having hooked them in with football, then you can start to deliver change. We will take on any major issues – I’ve said to Sadiq and to politicians, that if there is a challenge out there to talk to us and if we can help, we’ll get involved. Provided together we work, then our communities can change, be educated and can grow.”
Sean Daly, MCT’s Football and Sports Development Manager, echoes Kavanagh in that “football is the engager”, and represents a number of paths both inside and outside of the sport which may previously have been unavailable to those in the local community.
“We’re in a very diverse area. Children are children – they have the same needs, and we’re making a lot of impact within the schools and the community through our provision at holiday times such as free holiday camps,” Daly says.
“We’re delivering everything from sports, to healthy eating projects, to crime and gang awareness. What we have are some inspirational coaches, who are great role models to these young people.
“Football is the engager, so to bring people to a stadium like here at Millwall – once we’ve got them over the line about engaging with the football club – we then use football as a vehicle to deal with wider social issues.”