Street League chief executive Matt Stevenson-Dodd was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live this week following the publication of the Government’s new sport strategy.

The strategy is aimed at producing a fitter and more active nation, and highlighted Street League as an example of how sport can be used to benefit society. 

Matt was interviewed by BBC presenter Rachel Burden – you can listen to the interview here and read it below.

Question: This isn’t just about creating the champions of the future is it, this whole strategy, it’s about really encouraging more participation in sport on any level?

Matt: “That’s right. From our perspective we use football to get young people into jobs. It’s brilliant to see that the Government are now recognising that sport can do more than just participation, which is obviously important, but it can now go further and help young people get jobs, get healthier, help young people stay on in school. This has been happening for a long, long time and now the Government, through this strategy, have realised that sport can do so much more.”

Question: Have we slightly lost our way in terms of being involved in amateur sport because you’d have that thought that the bounce from the Olympics would have got everyone onto that road and involved but it doesn’t seem to have happened or lasted?

Matt: “I’m not sure about participation figures, but what I can tell you is what we see on the ground, which is a lot of young people really interested in sport. When we go into a community, with a bag of footballs people are dying to play football with us, they’re dying to do dance fitness, and we think that engaging young people through something they love has got to be the way forward for employability.” 

Question: So what’s stopping more young people doing it then?

Matt: “I think it’s just about making it accessible for people. A lot of the time people need the opportunity to get involved – that’s why we go to where the young people are rather than waiting for them to come to us.”

Question: Does that mean more resources, more facilities?

Matt: “Yes, that’s part of it, but for example what we do is go and rent a football field or a community space and we’ll go to where the young people are. I think you’ve got to be proactive. Our slant on this is about youth unemployment and you can’t just wait for young people to come to a classroom. A lot of the young people we work with hated being in a classroom so engaging them in something they love, like football - and we do things like Maths and English actually on the pitch – that’s where sport is really powerful and that’s being recognised I think.”

Question: I was going to ask you – what is the link then between employment and playing football and how do you make that transition? So what else goes on when you do this work?

Matt: “We work with young people over a 10-week period and we’ll get them involved in all sorts of things – getting them fitter. Once they get fitter their minds are fitter and they’re really focused on the future. You can lift their heads up and they communicate better. We get young people saying things like ‘I feel like I’m part of a team and if I don’t come tomorrow I’ll let my team-mates down’, and all of that is built on the pitch. You can then take that into the classroom and then into work and that’s what we see every single day at Street League.”

Question: “So you do see the results genuinely, do you?”

Matt: “Absolutely. This year we’ll have helped 1500 young people living in the most disadvantaged communities in the UK to go into work and training, and we think that is the real power of sport.”

Read the Government's new sport strategy here.