98% of 16-18 year olds that sign scholarships are either released or have dropped out of the game by the age of 21.
The OnSIDE Academy has been set up by Michael Kinsella to aid the transition from being a footballer into finding employment off the pitch. It is the first footballing academy in the U.K that has been established to assist released players and provide an education for them.
On Friday 1st March, I interviewed Michael Kinsella – the founder of the OnSIDE Academy. Once a promising goalkeeper for Liverpool and Everton schoolboys, Michael turned to crime and spent 7 years in prison for drug dealing. His aim is to stop others from falling into the same trouble that he did.
There are 135 ex-professorial footballers in English prisons at the moment. Hardly ever covered in the media, footballs glamour tag disguises the games true colors that lurk in the darkness behind all of the money and success. The grittyness of the game is disgusting and its about time something was done about it.
OnSIDE are trying to change football for the better, trying to create a safety net, “trying to change the footprint of football.”
The lifestyle that these young players thought they would have, and what they actually get, usually doesn’t match expectations and ultimately too many of these individuals turn to crime. The statistics are frightening and prove that footballing bodies must eradicate this darkness from the game.
The environment that has been created at the academy is similar to that of a football club. Training takes place every day and matches are arranged against professional and semi-professional teams. This gives players an opportunity to continue developing and also gives opportunities to prove their worth to onlooking clubs. All of this is done voluntarily and is not financially driven in any way.
Education is key at OnSIDE. Each individual is taught depending on their interests. Courses are available from bricklaying to studying to be a plumber. According to Michael himself, “football has a lot to own up to.” This can only be done if the so-called beautiful game can rid itself of this dark side alley.
There will be 25 lads in the academy for the beginning of next season and by 3 year, Michael hopes to have ten different sites providing this service for released players.
Michael is only out of prison 10 weeks now and has already achieved so much with OnSIDE. He studied for a degree while in jail and is hoping to stop youngsters make the same mistakes he did.
With many clubs backing OnSIDE’s growing ambitions, the future looks good for the academy The hope is that each year it will grow bigger so that they can help as many young adults as possible. Many high-profile players such as Jamie Carragher have publicly backed the academy and have successfully raised the profile of the charity business.
Thank you to Michael Kinsella for taking the time to talk to us. I wish him the best of luck for the future.
A radio documentary about life without football will be on my blog in a couple of weeks once its done. That was the original purpose of conducting an interview with Michael Kinsella.