Published on June 21st, 2017 | by Barry Healy0
Late Night Leagues: Showing Youth Crime a Red Card
An Garda Síochána and the FAI have joined forces to show youth crime the red card and tackle the issue head on.
The Late Night League (LNL) is a diversionary programme incorporating soccer leagues at various locations across the Dublin region since 2008. This initiative from the FAI and An Garda Síochána is based around the concept of using football as a tool for social inclusion and learning.
It is aimed at encouraging ‘at risk’ young people to participate in meaningful activities, thus reducing anti-social behaviour in disadvantaged areas. The Late Night Leagues are open to young people aged 13-21, and take place during prime anti-social hours such as Friday nights. An average of over 1,200 young people participated in the Dublin region, with approximately 50 in each league to date.
Through this partnership and interagency co-operation, the Late Night Leagues aim to divert young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour, encourage ‘at risk’ young people to participate in meaningful activities, thus reducing anti-social behaviour and promote and further engage with young people and communities.
An Garda Síochána have recognised the value of football as a community policing tool, offering an opportunity for Gardaí to develop informal channels of communication with young people, and improved community relations. It helps build a rapport between the participants and Gardaí, helping them see behind the uniform.
The participants come from all manner of backgrounds and different walks of life but the leagues are bringing people together, improving relationships and having fun.
Late Night Leagues are run bi-annually in centres across the Region, with the top two teams and the two most ‘sporting’ teams in centres, going forward to the Regional finals. The league has proven extremely popular, with the success of the initiative growing throughout the city, thanks to the continued work and commitment of FAI development officers, the Local Authorities, An Garda Síochána, as well as the young football players.
Such has been the success witnessed in Dublin, the Late Night Leagues is being rolled out on a national basis. This expansion sees the program extend to counties outside of the Dublin region, including Tipperary, Carlow, Westmeath, Donegal, Galway, Wexford, Mayo, Meath, Limerick, Waterford, Cork, Kildare, Wicklow, Clare and Monaghan.
Speaking of the programmes origins, Gerry Reardon, FAI Grassroots Development Manager, said: “We were delivering this program in Ballymun and the Gardaí got involved. They started transporting Traveller groups down to the games, spreading the word amongst the estates to come down and play, and it was really very successful. In fairness to the Gardaí in Ballymun, they took this message and spread it to other Garda Stations and networks. It quickly gained traction and before you know became a partnership programme in the Dublin area.
“The Late Night Leagues is not just about the winning. What we try and reward is the best sportsmanship or civic responsibility. We give out prizes for the winners but we’ll give out prizes for the kids who turn out every week and behave themselves”, he added.
With over 2,000 young people now taking part across the country, the success and appeal of Late Night Leagues is plain to see. The social value of the Late Night Leagues is huge too. There is a massive amount of testimonial evidence from the Guards that it improves community policing by virtue of developing informal channels of communication with young people, fosters a community spirit and importantly, providing a safe environment for young people to enjoy football.
Football by the virtue of its simplicity can be delivered anywhere and it has shown to be very effective in reducing anti-social behaviour. It offers a unique opportunity to provide young people with a positive sense of identity and empowerment by helping them acquire leadership, teamwork and self-governance skills under adult supervision. This programme is testament to that.