This September has been a bit of a scorcher with temperature records being broken in many areas - in fact this month has been much more like the height of summer than the start of autumn.
For me, the turn of the season heralds the beginning of the rugby season – as a referee I really do look forward to officiating at clubs all over East Anglia and often, further afield.
I drove past Bury St Edmunds rugby club the other day and I had cause to reflect on how well the club has progressed in recent seasons. Whilst much of this is down to the players’ performance on the pitch, I’m quite sure it wouldn’t have happened without the huge efforts of all the coaches, ground staff and volunteers who are involved. And, of course, whatever players think about refereeing decisions on the pitch all - or nearly all - of them accept a match can’t take place without a referee!
Playing rugby, for me, has been a source of excitement, friendship and enjoyment and I never thought I would still be involved in this sport forty years later! It’s true to say I was lucky to have the opportunity and I certainly realise not everyone is as fortunate – especially some of our younger citizens. But there’s a more serious point I’d like to share with you, I’m convinced sport has a very important role for reducing levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in Suffolk, particularly in younger generations.
Since I was first elected as Police and Crime Commissioner it has been a source of immense pleasure to support charities and voluntary organisations that focus on delivering activities and support for our young people in many cases where sport is a key activity within their programmes. I know it might sound rather old fashioned, but I’m absolutely sure participation in team sports helps individuals learn about the importance of teamwork, leadership and self-discipline. Participants are also taught to be gracious and magnanimous in victory, whilst having proper respect for opposition players and supporters. Personal fitness is important and the adoption of healthy lifestyles is beneficial to individuals and communities alike.
Positive Futures is one charity I support through our Crime Disorder and Reduction Grant and I have been privileged to see at first-hand how their approach and commitment is making such a significant difference to the lives of many youngsters in West Suffolk. Unfortunately, there are far too many youngsters who, through no fault of their own, make wrong choices in life and end up in trouble. Sadly this can in some cases seriously affect their career prospects.
However, when I see at first-hand what can be done to help I really believe we can be cautiously optimistic about the future. Sport can be used as a kind of hook to attract people into the fold and therefore is a type of diversionary activity from substance misuse, crime and anti social behaviour. The team and work ethic can help individuals realise how - with a change in approach - they can be good citizens and have a worthwhile and fulfilling life. After all, it’s never too late to gain educational or vocational qualifications.
Apart from sport I know many youngsters are encouraged through the Positive Futures programme, to undertake voluntary work and cultural activities which provides a proven track record of achievement when applying for jobs. I have always believed there is a very strong link between social and economic deprivation and higher levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, so we must all take responsibility for trying to ensure our young people are properly equipped for working life as they enter the workplace.
To close I’d like to reassure everyone that I am completely committed to continuing the work with organisations like Positive Futures during my current term of office. I know it is only by working together across the county we will continue to make our county the great place it is.
Positive Futures free and open access activities in the West of Suffolk:
Monday evening, 7-8pm, Football project ages 14+, Mildenhall Dome
Wednesday evening, 8.30-9.30pm, Street Dance ages 14+, Brandon Leisure Centre
Monday evening, 7-8pm, Girls only multi-sports 14+, Newmarket Leisure Centre
Tuesday evening, 5-6pm, Boxing age 11+, Hadleigh Leisure Centre
Friday evening, 7-8.30pm, Football 11+, Bury St Edmunds County Upper School
Friday evening, 8-10pm, Football 10+, Newmarket Leisure Centre
If you’d like to know more about our grant scheme please visit our www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk
-- Tim Passmore is Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk