Mark Thomas, Social Inclusion Lead at Oxford United in the Community, discusses the achievements of Premier League Kicks participants – and a trip to St George’s Park.

IT'S often said money can’t buy happiness, and positive feelings are instead generated from our social connections, purpose and how we define the meaning of life.

Speaking practically, money for many families in Oxfordshire will earn very little in these testing economic times. And it is – in most examples – money which allows people to be part of a club, a venue or team which provides that sense of purpose and enjoyment.

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At Oxford United in the Community, we’re big believers that finances should never control a person’s ability to engage with physical activity – especially children.

It’s why in August 2020 we partnered with the Premier League to launch Premier League Kicks – a free weekly programme delivered during term time for children aged 8-18 which uses the power of football and sport to inspire participants to reach their true potential.

Oxford Mail: Mark Thomas of Oxford United in the CommunityOver 500,000 boys and girls have engaged with the programme nationally since its launch in 2006, with some of England’s most known players counting themselves as former participants including Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Declan Rice and Wilfried Zaha.

In Oxfordshire, our team operates Premier League Kicks sessions in Oxford, Banbury and Witney – and we’ll be launching a new programme in Abingdon soon.

All abilities and experiences are welcome, and a huge emphasis is placed on making new participants feel welcome and part of each group.

While every session concludes with a story to tell, what our female participants from Blackbird Leys achieved during the Easter break epitomises how we can use football to inspire positive behaviours and experiences which genuinely changes lives.

We travelled down the A34 to Portsmouth where teams representing Crawley, Brighton, Reading, Southampton and Southend joined us in a regional qualifier for the 2024 Premier League Kicks Cup.

After winning five out of their six matches, the girls qualified for the national final due to be held at St George’s Park – the home of all England football squads – later this summer. Not only was this a huge achievement, but the day provided memories which will last a lifetime.

The excitement driving home was truly tangible. From humble beginnings joining our funded sessions at Leys Pool and Leisure Centre to pulling on the Oxford United shirt in a national final, it’s been a wonderful journey for all concerned.

Without wishing the bring the tone of this column down, it is a sad reality that right now in Oxfordshire not every young person living in our county will be able to access training and playing opportunities.

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This could be due to cost, equipment or geographical barriers they might face. By operating Premier League Kicks sessions, it is our aim to bring as many people together so they can develop positive and supportive relationships with likeminded people.

Spaces are available on a first come, first served, basis and we’d encourage anyone who may be experiencing any form of hardship right now to drop our team a message to learn more how Premier League Kicks could help your son or daughter.

You can email us via for more information and to register your free spaces. We hope to hear from you soon!

Mark Thomas, Social Inclusion Lead at Oxford United in the Community.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

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