AN Irish boxing club has been awarded a hefty funding sum to help tackle extremism in its community.
The Small Health Boxing Club in Birmingham was announced this week as one of ten sports-based projects to receive funding to tackle extremism from the Home Office’s Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT) programme.
The club, which comes under the banner of the Pat Benson Boxing Academy, has been awarded more than £22,000 to run ‘Fit Mind’ – a programme that uses boxing, one-to-one sessions and workshops to identify and work with those considered vulnerable to extremist propaganda.
The programme is aimed at improving the knowledge of participants so they can recognise extremist views and messaging, especially online – with the Birmingham club expecting to engage with roughly 100 participants through it.
Based in Digbeth, Birmingham’s Irish quarter, the gym has produced champion boxers such as Frankie Gavin and Matthew Macklin and was first set up by Mayo-man Pat Benson.
It is now run by his grandson, Paddy Benson, CEO of the club.
He told The Irish Post: “We are delighted that BSBT has recognised our project and the benefits that boxing engagement will bring.
“Boxing is the hook that inspires and attracts members from all walks of life into a sporting environment. Once they enter, we offer a range of services that helps young people and adults on the road to recovery from anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, substance misuse, and now as a diversionary activity from extremist behaviour.”
He added: “Our aim is to re-engage people positively into society I am delighted we can progress our specialist intervention programme to tackle a very serious problem within society.”
The club’s funding is part of a wider announcement of £400,000 to ten sports-related projects across the country made by Baroness Williams, Home Office Minister for Countering Extremism, at an event held at St Andrew’s stadium in Birmingham on Friday, June 22.
Announcing the funding, Baroness Williams said: “The work that Small Heath Boxing Club is doing to bring people from a wide range of backgrounds together shows that sport has a uniquely powerful way to break down barriers and provide a common platform to unite us all.
“This is why Building a Stronger Britain Together is providing funding to organisations to strengthen our communities so that they can stand against those who seek to divide us with extremist views.”
Other groups receiving funding include England Netball and football club foundations across the country.
They join a network of more than 160 organisations who have received support from BSBT since it was set up in 2015 as part of the government’s counter-extremism strategy.