MSPs were given an opportunity to hear how young people are shaping Scottish football’s future – directly from the young people themselves – as the Scottish FA held a special evening at the Scottish Parliament to showcase a selection of their youth-oriented Cashback for Communities initiatives.

The evening saw the Scottish FA’s Football Development department return to the Scottish Parliament to engage with MSPs, celebrate the work ongoing through the Scottish FA-led grassroots initiatives and allow a number of young people who are benefitting from these programmes to demonstrate their value.

Cashback for Communities is funded by the government through the recovered proceeds of crime. It targets people aged between 10 and 24 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 Scottish FA has been involved with Cashback for Communities for ten years, delivering programmes such as My School of Football and the Volunteer and Inspire Project (VIP).

Speakers on the evening included Joe Mearns, who was born with no arms and has scoliosis of the spine but who has refused to let his disability get in the way of achieving his dreams.

Joe became involved with the VIP programme a year ago through the Celtic Foundation where he works as a community coach. He spoke to the audience about how the VIP programme had helped him to overcome depression and disability to live his dreams.

Paul McNeill, Head of Community Development at the Scottish FA: “Tonight is a celebration of grassroots football in Scotland, particularly our Cashback for Communities programmes, and a celebration of the young people involved with them.

“Cashback for Communities has been a great initiative for us allowing us to work really closely with communities and hand in hand with the government, driving forward some fantastic programmes that may otherwise not have run.

“Evenings like tonight are so important for the Scottish FA’s Football Development department, allowing us to celebrate our success, such as these programmes that provide an opportunity and a little bit of hope for young people.

“The MSPs in attendance will see that within the last decade we have taken a project from a standing start to something we are really proud of.

“Sport for social change is so important – MSPS will hear some powerful stories from young people who have been on challenging journeys and see how the policy decisions they make have made a difference to the lives of these young people and maybe changed it for the better.”

Stuart McMillan MSP: “Some of the messages and stories we heard from some of the young people tonight have been truly inspiring and show the power of football and how important the Cashback for Communities scheme is as well.

“Scottish football has many excellent stories to tell at grassroots level and events like this are an opportunity for us to hear some of these stories, talk to the young people involved and the people running the projects.

“The MSPs here tonight will now be better informed and can pass these positive messages on to others in their own constituencies.”