November 18, 2022
The NFL Foundation UK is the charitable arm of the NFL within Britain focused on tackling inequality and the lack of opportunity faced by youth aged 11-20 in underserved communities across the UK. It was founded in 2021 with the support of our sister consultancy, thinkBeyond, and this year, Beyond Sport has been supporting the rollout of its London grants programme in partnership with the Mayor of London.
Everything the NFL Foundation UK does is grounded in its Theory of Change: young people, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, face individual, societal and practical challenges that prevent them from accessing opportunities to develop the skills, confidence and belief that they can create their own future and reach their potential. Therefore, the Foundation seeks to use American Football and the NFL Values to tackle this inequality and support young people to actively shape their lives and their communities.
With funding support from the Mayor of London’s office, an initial pilot programme launched with three London-based delivery partners in 2021. Learnings gained from working with the partners, The Change Foundation, BIGKID Foundation and HR Sports Academy, have provided valuable insights that are helping to transform its approach to partnership.
“The opportunity to work with the NFL Foundation UK, was one not to be missed. Inspiring the next generation of players, whilst incorporating the values of respect, integrity and resilience within every session, has been incredible to be part of,” said Ellen Rowley, Programme Manager at The Change Foundation. “Following on from the success of our 12-week pilot programme in 2021, we were fortunate enough to receive further funding to continue to develop and deliver the sport with our social messaging further. Collaborating with the NFL Foundation UK to establish an adapted programme, has been monumental, and this is only the start. We are excited for the continuous journey ahead.”
Overall, the Foundation found that using Flag Football -- the non-contact version of American Football -- within “best in class” organisations is a powerful way to reach young people whom they otherwise had struggled to engage, including girls, diverse ethnic groups and less active youth. Relatively new to the UK, the sport offers something different and exciting that people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds can enjoy, centred in community, education and giving back.
One partner hoping to capitalise on NFL Flag to engage their young people is Single Homeless Project. “The young people we support face a range of challenges… and all are experiencing homelessness, so don’t have many opportunities to get involved in sport. We’re incredibly excited to be starting this project and know it will significantly improve our group’s physical and mental health, build friendships and help them to understand the importance of teamwork, leadership and sportsmanship” said Fabia Dimant, Fundraising Officer at SHP. “Ultimately, through introducing sport into the lives of our young people, we want them to gain the skills and confidence to be able to shape their own futures and leave homelessness behind for good.”
In Spring 2022, following a renewed funding commitment from the Mayor of London’s office totalling £1 million over two years, Beyond Sport received over 45 expressions of interest to partner with non-profits and community organisations across London. Of these, eight were selected for the first phase of the programme.
Whilst the partners represent a range of locations, beneficiary groups and activity focuses, they all share a common goal of supporting 11–20-year-olds in diverse communities through sport. Each organisation will receive a grant, equipment and training on how to incorporate NFL Flag alongside their current activities. They will also join a network of Flag providers across London who are using the game to improve young Londoner’s lives.
2022 NFL Foundation UK partners include:
Based on the Olympic Park in East London, BADU Community CIC use sport and mentoring to support young people from some of the most underserved communities in London. Its youth-led programme supports participants to become qualified sports practitioners, providing opportunities to shadow BADU coaches teaching Flag, helping them to develop valuable employability skills that open up new career possibilities.
- BIGKID FOUNDATION
BIGKID Foundation is a multi-award-winning charity for young people at risk of social exclusion and youth violence. The charity will use its existing experience delivering Flag to expand its girls programme to additional local schools and will share its expertise and support with other partner organisations.
- THE CHANGE FOUNDATION
The Change Foundation is an award-winning charity that uses sport to change the lives of marginalised young people, particularly those with disabilities. They will deliver a youth-led programme that will engage vulnerable young people in NFL Flag activities through weekly sessions and community festival events.
Originally established to engage the recently settled Somali population in North West London, Connect Stars focuses on diverting local young people away from crime and youth violence through sport. Its Flag programme will offer informal education, mentoring and skills development alongside the sport.
Deptford Lionesses uses football and boxing to engage young girls from the local South East London community, offering free and low-cost sessions to families from one of the most deprived areas of the city. It will be introducing NFL Flag organisation-wide and train female coaches to deliver the sport and provide role models for younger girls.
- HR SPORTS ACADEMY
HR Sports Academy runs a variety of multi-sport projects in Tottenham, North East London. Building on the success of its 2021 girls’ Flag programme, it will engage even more youth through local schools and community sessions by offering the sport alongside personal development activities.
- SINGLE HOMELESS PROJECT
Single Homeless Project works to tackle homelessness through its network of London hostels. Its award-winning Sport and Health Project for older adults showcases the benefits of sport and exercise to improve the quality of life in people experiencing homelessness. Through this partnership, it will introduce NFL Flag and multisport activities to its youth hostels, supporting 15–20-year-olds to become more active and gain confidence through movement.
Southall Community Alliance is a network organisation that supports members of the socially and economically disadvantaged population of Southall, West London. Its “Touchdown Southall” project will bring NFL Flag activities and health workshops to young people, predominately of Indian, Pakistani, Afghani and Somali origin who are at risk of involvement in gangs and crime.
On the 5th of October 2022, ahead of an NFL game in London, the NFL Foundation UK was granted access to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to hold a community engagement event. Despite some classic British wet weather, we helped the Foundation to welcome upwards of 60 young people from the London partner organisations to participate in NFL Flag activities on the stadium pitch, walking in the footsteps of NFL superstars from the likes of the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Patriots and Green Bay Packers. The event provided the perfect introduction to the sport for the participants ahead of beginning their Flag projects in November 2022.
As we look ahead to 2023, Beyond Sport will support the NFL Foundation UK to expand its partnerships programme across London and the UK.
Will Stone, Head of CSR at NFL UK said “A year on from the launch of the NFL Foundation UK, we are truly excited to be partnering with these fantastic community organisations, as part of our £1m partnership with the Mayor of London. Working closely with Beyond Sport, these community partnerships will enable us to build on the strong initial impact we have had through our pilot work and engage many more underrepresented young people across the city”.