With this year’s summer of sport in full swing, a Croydon social enterprise is supporting the borough’s next generation of athlete talent. The GLL Sport Foundation is the brainchild of charitable social enterprise GLL, the organisation that operates Croydon’s public leisure facilities on behalf of the council under its ‘Better’ brand.

Sixty seven talented young sportsmen and women from Croydon, are benefitting from free gym and swimming memberships worth around £50,000 to help them on the road to success.  The Foundation awards cover Olympic, Paralympic, Deaflympic, Special Olympic and Commonwealth sporting disciplines.

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With 97% of award recipients receiving no other sport funding and 63% of recipients aged under 21, the GLL Sport Foundation has highlighted a vital funding gap for gifted athletes currently competing at national and international levels.

Peter Bundey, GLL Foundation chairman, paid tribute to the athletes and the Foundation’s important work, which has provided nearly 20,000 athletes with more than £12m worth of support over the past 13 years.

He said: “The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our lives. The restrictions have been hugely challenging for all sport and have affected both established and young talented athletes.

“We have been impressed with all the creative ways they have found to keep their sporting journey moving and are proud that now restrictions have eased we can play a part in helping Croydon’s young sporting talent to get back on track.”

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But it’s not just elite sportsmen and women training at leisure centres that GLL supports.  GLL libraries have launched an innovative new scheme, in partnership with footballing charity Alive and Kicking, to loan footballs from libraries alongside conventional library books.

In many poorer areas of London children can’t even access a football for a kick about in their local park.  That’s where the library loan scheme comes in.  But its impact is global.  The footballs for loan are made in Kenya, providing skills and employment for local communities there.  To date the initiative has been a huge success across both nations, with just one library ball not returned since the GLL scheme kicked off.

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Creating spaces that are accessible and welcoming to all, is at the heart of GLL’s philosophy.  The social enterprise has a proven track record of both managing the build process of state-of-the-art facilities and refurbishing historic buildings to make them fit for purpose for the 21st Century.

Diana Edmonds MBE GLL’s Director of Libraries, explains: "Libraries are about books – but are also inherently social places where you meet other people. We feel that it is crucial to create environments that look good and feel welcoming, to make sure that people want to spend time in them. 

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 “We are widely recognised for keeping libraries open in challenging circumstance and also for increasing footfall.  We do this by making spaces more welcoming and attractive, while providing a broad range of reading choices and a wealth of community activities.

“As the UK’s largest operator of libraries we have huge expertise in this area, along with the group buying power that means we get great value for money in building developments.”