Lives are being transformed by the Scottish FA’s community projects.

There is more to the Scottish FA than running football in Scotland.

There are numerous people behind the scenes at Hampden Park working tirelessly to engage the wider Scottish public through the power of the national game and under the banner 'Sport for Change'.

One such initiative is the ‘My Community’ CashBack Project, which started last April, and which is funded by the Government from the proceeds of crime. It targets people between 10 and 24 and who are socially disadvantaged from living in areas of deprivation, or being unemployed and not in training or education, being at risk of being involved in antisocial behaviour and offending/re-offending.

The three specific strands of the project are; My School of Football; My Inclusive Community programmes and My Volunteer and Inspire, which will engage just over 4,500 youngsters.

Paul McNeill, regional manager for the Scottish FA's west region, is heavily involved in the latter - the VIP programme.

"People think the Scottish FA is about dealing with players who have been sent off or dealing with Celtic and Rangers and cup finals but on the other side, we help people with employment opportunities," he said.

"We take 180 in total per year, from a variety of backgrounds but aimed at the most socially deprived areas and to provide them with the opportunity to succeed."

Young people are succeeding.

The VIP mission statement is wide-ranging in its aims and includes attending coaching courses, improving administration skills, learning about use of social media, fundraising, physiotherapy and governance skills.

It is hoped that "after 12 months, each volunteer will have achieved qualifications relative to their desired pathway, gaining practical work experience and engaging in activities in the community which will enable them to share their new skills and knowledge with others."

McNeill said: "A percentage of the proceeds of crime, money from convicted criminals' assets is fed back into community projects and the Scottish FA is one of 17 partners the government have. We deliver three strands of that.

"There is a huge variety of sport for social change projects, and this is probably one of our smallest but it has a massive impact.

"We have been doing volunteer projects for 10 years  but this is more focused and we try to follow up. In this region, we reach out to Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle, Drumchapel, Morton, Pollock, City of Glasgow college and many others and ask if they have anybody who would benefit most.

"It is weighted towards sporting activities. The anchor is the football but in the broadest sense of the industry. They might start off wanting to be coaches - and you will need a lot of work to make a career as a coach - and then they realise they could have a career in the media, team management or event management. Young people realise they are good at A or B and ask, 'how could I do more of that?

"For instance, the volunteers might have a go at being what we call fan ambassadors and before big games help with fliers and flags and they might migrate to other roles, helping with the media and mixed zone and things like that.

"We are seeing young people coming through the programme who are getting enhanced skill sets to go into the employability sector. They are so motivated, young and enthusiastic. They are good kids who need an opportunity than that is what we are providing."

Joe Mearns

Joe Mearns, 25, from Tollcross, was born with no arms and has scoliosis of the spine but refused to let that get in the way of achieving his dreams.

A remarkable and inspirational individual, he got involved with the VIP programme a year ago through the Celtic Foundation, where he works as a community coach and he is glowing testament to the initiative.

"I knew the Scottish FA course would help me with my coaching, get me my badges an give me experience of working with different people," said Mearns, who coaches his own team Coatbridge Rovers, a team of eight and nine year olds.

"It was excellent for me. I started with the 1.1 badge and now 1.3 on main pathway and kids pathway, all through the SFA.

"It helps with your confidence.

"When I started coaching I wasn't that loud. I never thought I would have this amount of confidence to take sessions and now I can take sessions with adults.

"There is still a Part 2 to this project with the Scottish FA to do in April, that's the final one. I would recommend the course to anyone."

Paul Brennan

Paul Brennan, 22, from Glasgow, is a full-time student  third year at UWS in Hamilton studying sports coaching and development.

Having taken part in various volunteer programmes he was delighted to join VIP where it helped him get a post coaching with coaching at Partick Thistle Community Trust.

He said: "There are various workshops through the year, each in Hampden Park, with different themes, like the online child awareness course.

"I worked at a deaf football festival for kids at Toryglen, helping coach them and it was brilliant.

"It helped me get a job with Partick Thistle. I got a call from Partick Thistle Community Trust and they asked me to come in and do a wee bit and now it moved on to a part-time job with Partick Thistle Charitable Trust working with kids with disabilities, frame football and amputee football.

"I have also been helped with qualifications. The SFA have put me through two coaching qualifications so far in this programme level 1.2 and 1.3 in the youth pathway which is £60 a time.

“I am soon sitting my children's award, a higher level coaching course, which is £300 and that is being funded for me. So you are talking about £400 of fees which for a student, is money that is obviously hard to come by so it has definitely helped me".