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Bringing a community together through love of football

On the eve of Euro 2024’s final match, another special football tournament will be taking place in Lockleaze, Bristol.

The Lockleaze Community Cup, will hold its seventh annual event on Saturday 13 July, bringing together people from across the community to enjoy a free event, organised by the local Neighbourhood Policing team.

We’re proud, as part of our Avon and Somerset Police 50th year celebrations, to shine the spotlight on one of the many ways our neighbourhood police officers and staff get to know, and work in partnership with, our communities and the people within them.

The event came about from imaginative problem solving to tackle neighbourhood issues.

In 2017, PC Rick Woodland was a neighbourhood officer for Lockleaze, dealing with a range of issues – stolen cars, burnt out motorbikes, anti-social behaviour, gang problems – many of which had been linked to local young people.

More positively, the area was benefitting from the building of the new Lockleaze Sports Centre and Rick was working closely with Bristol Rovers Community Trust, a multi-award-winning charity affiliated to the local football club, that had already established links with passionate and aspiring young footballers in the area, organising games, creating teams, and even offering education opportunities to diploma level.

Rick, who grew up enjoying football and sport, spotted an opportunity. Collaborating with Premier League Kicks, a national programme funded by the Premier League which engages young people through the power of football, a plan was made to celebrate local football.

The Community Cup football tournament was born, bringing together people of all ages to enjoy a tournament involving the area’s primary schools, followed by an adult tournament.

Local Premier Kicks teams compete against an Avon and Somerset Police Team, and the staff of Bristol Rovers Community Trust including some of the regular Bristol Rovers Women’s first team players, providing an entertaining day for all involved.

Rick, who now works in a different policing role, still helps with managing each year’s event, believing it brings everyone onto a level playing field, in more ways than one.

“The day helps us all communicate and interact in a totally different way. Young players appreciate our organising a fair and competitive tournament and enjoy the challenge. They also get to meet their local police out of uniform, share their passion for football and get to know them a little better or perhaps for the first time.” Rick says.

“The tournament builds a strong bridge with our community. As well as bringing a lot of enjoyment to people, it’s an opportunity for us to build trust, listen to people’s needs and work with them to solve local problems.

“While I now leave the organising to my colleagues, the event has a place in my heart, and I want to keep supporting it. It simply feels like the right thing to do.”

Detective Chief Inspector Keith Smith, who leads the Lockleaze policing team, agrees. “The Community Cup helps our neighbourhood officers build relationships with young people, some of whom may want help, but won’t directly ask.” he said.

“We’ve even had young people who’ve been involved in low-level football-related disorder playing as part of the policing team with officers they will see at the football grounds. The team might also include headteachers and prominent members of society. Together we enjoy hard work, teamwork, inclusion, and respect. It builds rapport and those young people are no longer getting involved in disorder at football games.

“The day has a lovely family feel. We run free bike marking events and give crime prevention advice, have police vehicles on site, run a free raffle and organise entertainment such as face painters, giant games, and an ice cream van. All the organisation is done by officers and is run on a shoestring budget, but the pleasure it brings the community is priceless.

“We received a thank you letter from a parent of a boy who was struggling badly and faced many challenges especially with his mental health. He took part in the Cup, found himself included as part of a team and was cheered on by his family, and friends. His Mum told us it was an amazing experience which helped him overcome his anxiety, gain lovely memories, and enjoy a huge confidence boost. His certificate and medal still take pride of place in his bedroom and if that’s not an incentive to keep organising, I’m not sure what is!”

Will Dixon, Head of Inclusion and Degree Mentor at Bristol Rovers Community Trust said: “We feel truly fortunate to be hosting another collaborative event with Avon and Somerset Police this year. This tournament has, over the years, created a real feeling of togetherness and has helped us build a connection with the community through our joint love of football.

“Without the support of Rick and Avon and Somerset Police we wouldn’t be able to host an event to this standard and build the connections we have, so we thank them for everything!”