How Premier League status for Huddersfield Town has left a lasting legacy in West Yorkshire

Premier League status has left a legacy for some of the most vulnerable and deprived youngsters in West Yorkshire, says a leading Yorkshire football team foundation. Ruth Dacey reports.

Pictured, Huddersfield Town fans watching on as the West Yorkshire side took on Reading in the Championship Play-Off Final, Wembley, London...29th May 2017 .. Hudderfield Town gained promotion to the Premier League after beating Reading in a penalty shoot-out. Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMediaResell

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post Siobhan Atkinson, the chief executive for the Huddersfield Town Foundation, said despite a fleeting time in top flight football for The Terriers, a deep and lasting legacy has been paved for young people most in need across Kirklees.

Miss Atkinson, 45, who has more than 20 years experience in the professional sport industry, said Premier League status has played a key role in expanding a crucial free breakfast at school scheme, which has seen more than one million meals served to children who most need it across Kirklees, to keeping young people out of crime and supporting those from the care system.

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"Premier League status was massive for Huddersfield," she said. "Prior to being in the Premier League, the foundation existed but was delivering just breakfast clubs. When they got promoted into the Premier League that opened doors."

Huddersfield Town Foundation's Premier League Kicks programme in action in August this year. Photo credit: William Early

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Initially after Huddersfield reached the promised land, for the first time since 1972 in the 2017-18 season, they received Premier League funding of £75,000 for the delivery of the primary kicks and primary stars initiatives.

This is aimed at increasing opportunities in football for youngsters aged eight to 18 and the primary stars programme - helping girls and boys aged five-11 in the classroom, the playground and on the sports field.

The funding has enabled them to help more than 1,000 young people last year across Kirklees primarily in areas most in need. And despite relegation back into the Championship just two seasons later the funding for the two projects has increased to £245,000 for this season and the foundation will receive more than £500,000 in total for work in the community.

Pictured, Siobhan Atkinson, the chief executive for the Huddersfield Town Foundation. Photo credit: William Early

Miss Atkinson said: “Being part of that Premier League really helped us establish a position for the foundation - we are now known in the community.

"We started off on quite small grants from the Premier League but we’ve proven we’ve invested in a well-skilled workforce so they have invested more money into our community. They recognise the need that Kirklees has and we’ll keep doing that job."

She added: "Even though we were relegated, we’ll still have that level of money coming in, provided we do the job we are supposed to do. The legacy is that it allows us to keep building further."

Premier League status has also expanded the Huddersfield Town Foundation Early Kick-off Breakfast Club, started back in 2012, which now provides school children across 41 schools in deprived areas of Kirklees, with their most important meal of the day.

The Premier League Kicks programme, run by the Huddersfield Town Foundation in action in August this year. Photo credit: William Early

It also enabled the foundation to work with the Kirklees Police Youth Intervention Team around supporting young people at risk of dipping into criminal behaviour, particularly where there are hotspots for knife crime and in October the foundation will work with 20 children who are preparing to leave the care system.

Miss Atkinson, who has been in post since January 2019, after a previous eight year stint as the Community Development Executive at the Premier League, said: "All of that vital work has been funded by the Premier League.

"Children who are in the care system require a lot of support… They are thrown out into the big wide world.

"The intention is we work closely and in-depth with them so we get that long term change and don’t just do one intervention and then they don’t see us again."

She added: "Premier League football really put the football club on the map, it really inspired young people to want to be proud of their local football club and to see the team they support taking on those big teams… It showed them dreams can come true.

"It was a dream for Huddersfield to get into that Premier League. It really helps us to work in the community - people were much more aware about who we were and what we did. It definitely opened doors for us and has created a legacy."

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