Sport in the City: Thompson's cure for yob culture - and it works

Five-time karate world champion needs government help to take scheme countrywide

In this age of Asbos and aggro, ending the yob culture is said to be top of the Government's agenda. Pity then that so few politicians turned up last week to hear Geoff Thompson launch a campaign on behalf of the Youth Charter for Sport, which outlines how sport can help provide a solution. One hopes they will at least read the 48-page report entitled "Somewhere to go, something to do, someone to show them..."

The Home Secretary certainly had somewhere else to go and something to do. With hundreds of released criminals apparently roaming the streets, Charles Clarke was doing his bit for society by tucking into a McDonald's football lunch at the Savoy.

Thompson, meanwhile, was suggesting ways and means of keeping at-risk kids from joining in the daylight yobbery.

In the 12 years since the Manchester-based Youth Charter was founded, Thompson, its executive chairman, has seen what can be achieved in deprived areas like Moss Side and Toxteth and now there are ambitious plans to extend to the rest of the country. Thompson is calling on the Government to help provide free weekly access for all young people, particularly those who have been involved in crime or misdemeanours, to sports and leisure in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

The eclectic gathering in Westminster's River Room, hosted by Baroness Amos, Labour leader of the House of Lords , included a dame, an ambassador, a clutch of ex-Olympians and Lord "Hello, I'm Jeffrey" Archer, briefly present to give his endorsement, mindful, no doubt, of his own experiences of sporting life on the inside.

They heard Thompson, five times the world karate champion, propose " firm, realistic and achievable recommendations that we believe will go a long way to reducing anti-social behaviour and help combat bullying". These include providing "sport and social coaches with a genuine and ongoing interest in the community" to go into inner cities with programmes that will entice youngsters into clubs and leisure centres.

The idea is based on Thompson's Moss Side Story which began in 1993 when he started the Youth Charter following the gunning down in Manchester of a 15-year-old. "I can accept losing medals but I cannot accept losing lives," he says.

Before the Commonwealth Games in 2002, his organisation helped 1,000 youngsters from deprived communities work as volunteers. "We have delivered this successfully in Manchester and we can do it elsewhere in cities like London, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Glasgow. In all we are targeting 10 cities in which we want to recruit and train 100 youngsters as sports leaders. Sport can be the vaccine for so many social ills. As a kid I was part of the gang culture, potentially one of those destined to spend time at Her Majesty's leisure but it was a leisure centre which changed my life. It was there I took up karate and found a vehicle to channel my anger."

The Rugby Football Union - enlightened in this area - have been quick to back the scheme. Thompson hopes other sports bodies, especially individual football clubs, will follow suit, and he has a number of sponsors on board to help underwrite the costs, which he estimates at £250,000 per community. The Government and its agencies, who have shown little enthusiasm for the Charter, seem to prefer channelling youth funds elsewhere. So does the Lottery. "We have put in our application and heard nothing." But Thompson is used to going it alone.

Big, black and voluble, he has long been viewed as a loose cannon (though he seems to hit the target), and someone who asks too many awkward questions.

Thompson, 48, has always believed sport is an intrinsic part of the rehabilitation process, helping to set up sports programmes in a dozen prisons and young offenders' institutions. He says he finds it hard to see so much potential sporting talent "banged up". "The sad thing is that most do not have the option to get involved further in the sort of sports programmes that inspired them while they were inside. But at least sport gives them a chance. If you use its unifying power in the widest social and cultural sense you start to find some of the answers."

Having watched Thompson at work over the years it is evident he has more street cred than other sports administrators, by a distance. Ironically, he originates from the new Olympic heartland of Hackney but so far 2012 has not formally embraced him. In view of Seb Coe's vision of sport as a legacy for youth and the community, that almost seems a crime in itself.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer (PHP & Wordpress) - Central London

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Web Dev...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative - Unskilled & Skilled

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen to jo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Law Firm - Bromley

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Market...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee