Footballers must do more to help young, says ex-NFL star and new Boris Johnson mentor

  • @Paul_Bignell

Premier League footballers are not doing enough to help disadvantaged young people, according to the American sportsman recruited by Boris Johnson to mentor London’s teenagers.

Former American football star Cecil Martin, who has been appointed as an ambassador for mentoring by the Mayor of London, said he believes top players “need to do more” to mentor young people in poorer communities.

Mr Martin, 38, who played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and is now a Sky Sports commentator in the UK, has been awarded the position on the newly formed committee for mentoring young people.

Through various schemes being developed over the next year by the mentoring advisory board, Mr Johnson hopes that eventually 10,000 young people will benefit.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Mr Martin said: “We believe Premier League footballers need to do more but it’s up to the players to want to do it.

“I think this initiative can add another place for these football clubs to nudge these footballers and athletes to be a part of. A lot of them will remember what got them to where they are, but sometimes you get caught up with things and you’re not in the frame of mind to give more.”

Mr Martin, who grew up in a deprived suburb of Chicago, has been a volunteer since he was 17.

The committee also includes Ray Lewis, the former deputy mayor of London, Pete Reed, the double Olympic gold-medal rower, and Andrew Bone, a senior executive at De Beers. It is chaired by Ashish Prashar, a PR executive. 

Mr Lewis, the Mayor’s mentoring adviser, said: “You don’t get the sense that it’s the culture of our footballers do you?

All too often when our people do stuff, they want a lot of fanfare, where it’s the quiet, understated work that is often the most effective. And there’s no doubt that footballers can make a huge impact in the lives of our young people.”

The Premier League hit back at the claims. A spokesman said: “Premier League clubs have a fantastic track record of investing in and committing to a wide range of good-cause initiatives in the UK and overseas.

“Last season that included £45m of investment in community and good-cause programmes that engaged more than half a million people.”