YOUNG people in Stanley are giving bad behaviour the red card with a new football project.

Stanley Kicks, run by the Foundation of Light, launches this Friday night with two weekly sessions for different age groups, in a bid to offer young people a positive way to spend their free time.

Sunderland football hero Kevin Ball visited the project, at North Durham Academy, to show support and meet some of the school’s sporting and academic stars.

He said: “Having somewhere to go on a night for me was brilliant: I can still picture the youth club up the road where I used to live and they would give us a variety of activities to do.

“The Kicks programme is going to be so important to the young people of Stanley because it’ll give them an opportunity.

“It’s up to them to embrace it and we hope they’ll come off the streets, come and meet us, come and say hello. Personally I think it’s a fantastic programme for the young people of Stanley and the surrounding areas.”

In 2019, youth-related incidents across Stanley fell by 11 per cent, an improvement police attribute to tougher enforcement action and better diversion schemes.

Sergeant Gary Smith, from Stanley Police, said: “We would like to thank the young people of Stanley and their parents for their positive attitude over the last year, during which incidents of youth-related disorder have fallen by 11 per cent.”

“The Kicks programme is brilliant.

“It gives young people something positive to do and prevents them from coming into conflict with residents and the police, which is better for everyone in the area.

“Hopefully it will be a huge success and will help with our aim of making Stanley a better and safer place for everyone.”

The project will be free to attend and paid for by a ground-breaking fund that focuses specifically on the Stanley area.

The Stanley Community Fund was put together by County Durham Community Foundation, Stanley Town Council, Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Stanley Area Action Partnership and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and has already given out almost £60,000 in grants to 16 local groups.

Michelle Cooper, from County Durham Community Foundation, said: “We’re really delighted to see Stanley Kicks become a reality in bringing better health and well-being to young people in our community.

“The Stanley Community Fund is giving us the progress we so urgently need to see, putting money to good use by giving it to local people who understand what makes a difference.

“The project is funded for two years and that’s two years when young people in Stanley have something constructive to do on Friday nights.

“We know what it’s like to be bored and have no opportunities, so we’re keen to offer these young people something of value that can shape their lives for the better.”