The successful Premier Skills initiative, run by the Premier League and the British Council, is launching in Sierra Leone between 14-20 March.
Premier Skills uses football to develop a brighter future for young people around the world, drawing upon the global appeal of the Premier League and its expertise in delivering community programmes in the UK, alongside the British Council’s global network and track record of delivery.
The launch of this new programme is a positive and timely moment for the country since the Ebola virus stopped almost all activities from happening in Sierra Leone until the country was declared free of the virus in November 2015.
Premier Skills in Sierra Leone is being jointly organised by the British Council and Premier League, in association with the Sierra Leone Football Association, Craig Bellamy Foundation and Restless Development.
The Premier Skills training course will take place in Freetown from 14 to 20 March 2016 with intensive training for 72 grassroots football coaches and referees selected from across Sierra Leone.
The course will be led by head coach Warren Leat from Stoke City Football Club, supported by Rich Dexter, Ollie Ezard and Ryan McGregor, coaches at Hull City Football Club. Freetown is officially linked to Hull so the presence of the Hull City coaches is a further example of the strong bond between the two cities. Andrew D’Urso and Paul Taylor will lead the referee training.
Throughout the week the local grassroots coaches will receive expert training from the qualified UK coaches, helping them to develop and run community action projects that use football as a tool to transform lives and contribute to the development of safer and stronger communities.
One particular focus of the programme will be to encourage the growth of female participation in football, which is currently low in Sierra Leone. Through Premier Skills, females will be given the chance to train as effective community football coaches, strengthening their ability to tackle social issues through the medium of football.
Premier league Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore said:
"It is great news that we are going to see Premier Skills get off the ground in Sierra Leone. It has undoubtedly been a hugely difficult time for everyone in the country, not just those involved in football at its many levels.
"We have delivered Premier Skills right across Africa, equipping men and women coaching at the community and youth level with new skills that have helped them take the game to many more young people. I am confident Premier Skills can have a similarly positive long term impact in Sierra Leone."
British Council Country Project Manager Michael Dennis said:
“This is very timely now that the deadly Ebola virus that stopped almost all activities from happening in Sierra Leone is no more. Training our coaches and referees to develop their skills in delivering community action programmes through football will help to play a part in supporting the development of our society. British Council is happy to partner with the Premier League, which is a respected institution by all football lovers in Sierra Leone, and to work with it to impart knowledge to young people in our society.”
Sierra Leone Football Association President Isha Johansen said:
"The Premier Skills Collaboration is a long awaited and much needed partnership for our industry, especially geared towards our youth. The combination of the love of football, community skills and education will no doubt be the vehicle to build the self-esteem and sound structures around our young boys and girls."