East London Lines 2023

A new sports scheme for youths in Catford has reported a successful increase in participants since starting in June this year.

Sports Fun 4 All runs free football sessions for young people aged three to 19 around Lewisham, Greenwich, and Bromley, with Catford being their newest scheme. The charity holds most of its sessions in Lewisham but also works in other areas, including Downham, Deptford, Bellingham, and Honor Oak.

Kieran Connolly, a football coach for almost 20 years, founded Sports Fun 4 All and registered it as a charity in 2019, setting up free sessions for youths around south-east London.

There are now 49 young people coming along to the Catford sessions every Monday evening, but it took some time to achieve these numbers.

He said, “It was pretty quiet at the beginning; we were getting about four or five people each week. There weren’t enough players to play proper matches, so they wouldn’t return the week after. I paid a good amount of money to do some door-to-door leafletting.”

The charity aims to break down barriers for young people and offer them a safe space to socialise with their friends outside of school.

Sports Fun 4 All had been trying to offer sessions in Catford for years, but obtaining a suitable pitch was Connolly’s main challenge.

He waited two years to get access to the St. Dunstan’s College pitch, formally known as Catford Pitz. The private school erected a fence around the pitch 10 years ago, and access can only be gained if the school allows it.

He said, “I think the thing is for a lot of these young people, especially in the winter, there’s nowhere for them to go and play football because all the flood-lit pitches cost money. St Dunstan’s took over that facility about 10 years ago, and it was then locked off to the community.”

“When I was growing up, that was where everybody used to go and play football. You could walk in, go on the AstroTurf, and play for free, and no one would kick you off. Anyone who grew up in Lewisham knows it as Catford Pitz. That’s where people went to go and play football.”

Councillor James-J Walsh, who has been vocal about the importance of the free sports schemes in Lewisham, said: “Sports Fun 4 All is a great initiative providing free football sessions and coaches on professional pitches across Lewisham, at no cost to young people and their parents, and with no strings attached.

“The passion Britain has for community sport is a tradition I hope never dies. Having free football sessions in Catford will allow our young people to build their community, develop their football skills, and get fitter—and with this opportunity, you get to do it all for free, which has to be a winner!”