England stars back Essex FA “Just Play” scheme

England internationals Peter Crouch and Theo Walcott are amongst the star names who’ve given their backing to a new FA Mars ‘Just Play!’ initiative to raise informal participation in football over a specific two-year period, the local centre of which is based at Hassenbrook School in Stanford-le-Hope every Monday evening.

Just Play! aims to get adults back playing the game using the “Find Football Near You” slogan with adverts featuring Tottenham Hotspur striker Crouch and Arsenal winger Walcott. The partnership between the UK’s best-selling chocolate bar and The FA aims to arrest the decline in participation by getting 150,000 new players enjoying The Beautiful Game for at least 30 minutes a week by September 2013, delivering 3.9 million hours of extra football each year.

Sport England and the Essex County FA have both undertaken research which reveals the number of people playing regular adult football is dropping due to a lack of facilities, increased apathy, inflexible options and logistical difficulties. Therefore, Just Play! has introduced ‘Kickabouts’ – an informal and fun way to get back into football and an ideal means of playing without “committing to a weekly game, a complicated league or fancy team strips!”

The FA and Mars are aiming to create over 100 centres across England by the end of the calendar year, each staffed by Just Play! Organisers, delivering casual football sessions that can benefit up to 50 participants at any one time. These Kickabouts are already taking place at dedicated centres across England, with Essex’s local sessions situated at Hassenbrook School under the guidance of GetIntoFootball Thurrock Officer Faye Lambert.

She explained: “We’re delivering these small-sided football sessions at Hassenbrook which allow participants to experience football with FA-qualified coaches. Nick Emery and I had intended to set-up a Turn-Up and Play in the Stanford-le-Hope area after the recent successes in South Ockendon and Grays. Hassenbrook School is an accessible venue with a suitable sized sports hall, allowing us the freedom to attract a large number of participants.”

The Kickabout was set-up in July for people who couldn’t find the time to participate on the traditional Saturdays or Sundays. These ‘Turn-Up and Play’ sessions continue to take place every Monday between 7:00-9:00pm and players can simply arrive in their kit and enjoy the informal football. There’s no maximum age limit or the need to have a team as individuals can be assigned teams on the night. Faye would like to hear from anyone who’d like to know more.

As part of a wider legacy around the new scheme, Mars and The FA have committed to ensuring the organisers and centres are sustainably managed and able to deliver 800 Just Play! sessions in the next twelve months. Over the course of the partnership, the number of new players across all forms of football, towards the 150,000 target, will be tracked and measured on a quarterly basis through Sport England’s Active People Survey.

Why not just turn-up and play? The sessions cost just £1 each and you can find out more from Faye on (01245) 393099 or via E-Mail at faye.lambert@essexfa.com. Participants must be 16 or over to take part. If you’re interested in Kickabouts, small-sided or traditional eleven-a-side formats of the game you can find out more at www.essexfa.com by clicking on the ‘GetIntoFootball’ link or at www.justplay.thefa.com.

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