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Aberdeen Football Club and Grassroot Soccer Launch Partnership to Promote Healthy Lives for Young People across the North-east.

US-based Grassroot Soccer and Aberdeen Football Club and AFC Community Trust (AFCCT) have entered into a formal partnership, the first of its kind in the UK for the global football-based charity focused on adolescent health and well-being.

With supporters like Sir Alex Ferguson, and donors including the Gates and Ford Foundations, Grassroot Soccer has extensive experience and proven success in educating young people on healthy living through a football-based curriculum.

Through the partnership with the Club, Grassroot Soccer will work with the Club and AFCCT to roll-out a football-inspired education programme for young people around mental health. This programme will be piloted at the city’s new £47million super academy at Lochside.

Stewart Milne, chairman of AFC, said: “It’s well recognised that sport has a proven, positive impact on mental health and well-being. Through the AFC brand and the power of and passion for football, we are able to touch so many lives in so many positive ways, evidenced by numerous life-changing stories as a result of the tremendous work of AFCCT.

“We’re proud and privileged to be a chosen partner for Grassroot Soccer and will help spread and support their message and efforts across football in the UK. This partnership has come about as part of Dave Cormack’s remit to further strengthen our links with soccer in the US, and through our associations with Bobby Clark and Tom Crotty.”

This announcement comes on the back of an increasing Scottish Government focus on raising awareness of mental health and a recent study by Glasgow University, which revealed that an alarming one in nine young people have attempted suicide and one in six self-harm as a result of mental health issues.

“Through our existing initiatives, we’re acutely aware of the growing mental health problems among today’s young people,” explained Duncan Skinner, chairman of AFCCT. “Grassroot Soccer have a proven track-record in tackling adolescent health through football-based education and we’re excited about building this curriculum with them, here in the North-east, to make a real difference to those suffering and to those affected by mental health in their families and their schools.”

Following a successful launch at Lochside Academy, AFCCT will be able to use the football-based curriculum throughout the North-east.

Neil Hendry, head teacher at Lochside Academy said: “We’re delighted to have been chosen to launch the pilot of this innovative programme. This work will focus on improving the mental health of all at young people Lochside Academy.”

John Wheeler, Education Operational Delivery Convener at Aberdeen City Council added: “It’s marvellous that the new Lochside Academy has already been chosen to spearhead this football-based curriculum promoting health and well-being among our young people. Having visited the site myself only last week and seeing the superb facilities there, I can think of no better setting to kick off this major programme. We’re looking forward to seeing some fabulous results, on and off the pitch at Lochside when the programme gets underway.”

Grassroot Soccer was founded by Tommy Clark, son of legendary Aberdeen and Scotland goalkeeper Bobby Clark. Tom Crotty, the US-based businessman who became an investor in AFC last year, is a major donor to the charity and a board member.

The organisation, which works with governments, multi-national corporations and partners worldwide to educate and inspire young people to live healthier and more productive lives, provides technical assistance to its partners including project design support, curriculum development, training delivery, organisational development and monitoring and evaluation.

Tommy Clark added: “Our ethos is to work alongside local implementing partners to increase the scale and impact of our programmes in an efficient and sustainable way. We’re really pleased to team up with AFC particularly because of my family’s affiliation with the Club, to reach a wider audience throughout Scotland and the UK.

“Grassroot Soccer programmes address acute health issues such as HIV, malaria, gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health as well as focusing on determinants of health such as education and employment to ensure young people stay on positive health journey well into adulthood.”