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Palace for Life celebrate a decade of community work with London United

Amalia and her mentor Angel were representing Palace at an event at the House of Commons on Tuesday evening to celebrate a decade of work by London United, a collaborative network of 16 professional football club organisations.

Palace for Life mentor Angel and one of her young south London mentees Amalia visited the House of Commons on Tuesday evening to celebrate a decade of work by London United, a collaborative network of 16 professional football club Community Organisations, of which Palace for Life is a member.

Over 150 people, including Palace club legend and Palace for Life Patron Mark Bright, Tottenham’s Ledley King, West Ham’s Carlton Cole and Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker, gathered at the Speaker’s House, Westminster for the event.

The London United 10 year anniversary, supported by the Premier League, aimed to showcase how the 16 professional London clubs are helping to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the city with a notable focus on employability, violence reduction and health and wellbeing – and included a pledge to keep growing partnerships to do even more in the future.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle opening the event

The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who is a Bolton Wanderers fan, opened proceedings, before three participants whose lives have been changed through the clubs’ work took to the stage, including Angel, a mentor at Palace for Life who spoke on behalf of Amalia, a young person she has been working with this year.

Eileen from the West Ham Foundation, Angel from Palace for Life and Kyran from the Leyton Orient Trust telling their stories on stage

During the panel discussion, Angel spoke passionately about her work with Amalia:

“With Amalia, I’ve had the pleasure of working with her for quite a while now. She has been through far more than most people would be capable of at a young age. From having to migrate from a different country, to getting to where she is now, with loads of trials and tribulations in between.

Angel on stage talking all things Palace for Life, mentoring and London United

Unfortunately, she found herself in trouble and was referred to the Youth Justice Service and then eventually to myself. She’s come on leaps and bounds since then and is working towards being a youth worker like me. I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of her, even for coming here today.”

On her own journey and talking about London United, she said:

“I’ve gone full circle – I was a participant at Palace for Life myself so I know how important it is to have that person there for you. Knowing what it feels like first-hand, I can’t help but want to support and watch Amalia grow. It’s imperative to have these events to showcase the impact London United has and the support they provide year in, year out.”

Also in attendance was Tottenham Hotspur Ambassador Ledley King, West Ham United Ambassador Carlton Cole, Regional Director for London’s National Health Service, Caroline Clarke and the Director of the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, Lib Peck.

“I think sport and London United can, and does, play an incredible role in violence reduction,” said Lib Peck.

“Something that really stands out for me is the fact that a lot of the kids we speak to don’t feel that they matter or belong. Deprivation and alienation are key issues in our field of work and football clubs are a way of belonging and feeling part of something. That’s really important. It’s been great that we’ve been able to work with local clubs at a time where institutions are struggling for credibility, football cuts through that.”

Presenter Olivia Buzaglo, Ledley King, Caroline Clarke, Lib Peck and Calrton Cole on the panel

“I’d like to work even more with London United. There are so many people who want to make London a safer place and collaboration across sporting organisations is absolutely a way to do that.”

Typically fierce rivals on the pitch, the clubs have used the power of football to collaborate, share expertise, exchange ideas, and implement best practices since their official partnership, which was formed in 2013. Their collective aim: to address pressing issues and implement city-wide initiatives aimed at helping Londoners to thrive.

As part of the celebration, the clubs shared their annual impact, based on the 21/22 season, which consisted of working with over 240,000 Londoners, investment of more than £30m back into the city, and delivery of over 450 programmes in the capital.

Other notable football attendees included: former Palace forward Mark Bright, former Watford player Luther Blissett, former QPR player Andy Sinton, former Brentford player Marcus Gayle, and former Chelsea player Paul Elliott.

Freddie Hudson, Chair of London United and Head of Arsenal in the Community, said: “It’s a 10-year celebration tonight but a lot of this work started, for us in the mid 1980s, for many of the other clubs it quickly followed, and that’s where we captured a lot of the learning: on the ground across our communities and building important partnerships. This work is tough and challenging. We couldn’t attempt to do it on our own, we need the partnerships to overcome some of the challenges that Londoners are facing.”

“We are hoping that the event has shined a bit of light on the work of London United and it might stimulate some thoughts on how we can extend that collaboration and deepen it further over the next 10 years.”

Freddie Hudson, Chair of London United giving his opening speech

Commenting on the role of football across society, Dean Russell, Member of Parliament for Watford, said: “It plays such an important role and I think the fact that the 16 football clubs have come together to work together off the pitch, obviously they’re going to be rivals on the pitch, but to work off the pitch to help communities, to inspire other people, to get involved, but ultimately to act as role models across our communities.”

The professional football club Community Organisations that form London United are: Arsenal F.C., Barnet F.C., Brentford F.C., Charlton Athletic F.C., Chelsea F.C., Crystal Palace F.C., Dagenham and Redbridge F.C., Fulham F.C., Leyton Orient F.C., Millwall F.C., Queens Park Rangers F.C., Sutton United F.C., Tottenham Hotspur F.C., Watford F.C., West Ham United F.C., and AFC Wimbledon.

For more information on London United, head here.

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