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Engaging, inspiring and uniting Manchester
ONSIDE magazine

Created in 2007, the award-winning Manchester United Foundation is gearing up for its tenth year as one of the most active Premier League club community trusts in England. John Shiels has been CEO during that decade and writes here why the facilities delivered by the Football Foundation are so vital to his work.


"Without the sorts of facilities delivered by the Football Foundation, we simply wouldn’t be able to reach those young people who benefit from our sessions."

John Shiels

John Shiels

Manchester United Foundation works with 17,000 kids across Manchester, using the United brand and the game of football to ‘engage, inspire and unite’ young people – that is our motto. When we work with our participants we impart the skills necessary to become a more rounded and ultimately, more employable individual. We offer a wide range of community outreach programmes from Premier League Kicks, which we have branded ‘Street Reds’, to literacy and enterprise sessions.

FF funded sites used by Manchester United Foundation

We specifically target 5-18-year-olds in the most underprivileged areas of Manchester, aiming to break the social deprivation cycle and fill the support network void that is otherwise missing from their lives.

Many young people that we with work don’t venture beyond their local neighbourhood, as they do not have access to private transport or cannot afford public transport. For example, one participant who lived in Stretford had never been to Manchester’s city centre, despite living just three miles away. We try to break down these barriers and if you have a shiny new 3G pitch up the road, it means we can move youngsters outside of their ten minute radius. All of the Football Foundation’s pitches are floodlit, meaning that our work continues through the winter and dark evenings, not just when the weather is nice.

Without the sorts of facilities delivered by the Football Foundation, we simply wouldn’t be able to reach those young people who benefit from our sessions. These 3G pitches give us staging posts around the city, at which we can be agents for social mobility. Put it like this – if you build a 3G pitch and get Manchester United Foundation to deliver coaching activity from it, why wouldn’t people come?

We want people to be able to go back into their community and be a shining light for the rest – prove that you can make something of yourself through dedication and making the right decisions. First-teamer Marcus Rashford played in our Wythenshawe Street Reds sessions as a kid and look what he has achieved. Even after Marcus made his debut against Arsenal last season, he still came down to see the kids at Street Reds the next day – that’s the level of impact that scheme had on him.

This is an extract from the feature 'Engaging, inspiring and uniting Manchester' in Issue 38 of ONSIDE magazine.

Read the full article for free at the following links:

Also in Issue 38

Guest Editorial

James Beattie – former Southampton FC, Everton FC and England striker, and Football Foundation Ambassador

Kane Returns

Spurs and England star striker, Harry Kane, returns to his childhood sports site to open a new playing surface.

Interview with FA CEO Martin Glenn

Martin Glenn talks about his priorities and ambitions for football, and how he thinks Leicester managed  that 5000-1 Premier League title win.


Find out how our PitchFinder tool allows people to find their perfect local pitch, and how the Foundation uses it to strategically target areas in need of investment.

Growing the Game

We analyse how our popular club development scheme Grow the Game is achieving increases in participation amongst under-represented groups.

An extract from... Ed Smith

Read this fascinating extract from ‘Luck’ a book by Times columnist, author and former England cricketer, Ed Smith.