Three premiership footballers who grew up in London council estates are aiming to boost the provision of social and affordable housing in and around the capital and across the UK.
The Legacy Foundation – set up by former England captain, Rio Ferdinand, and fellow footballers Bobby Zamora and Mark Noble – aims to build a series of social and privately rentable housing schemes, backed by private investors, which will support local communities through academies, schools and amenities.
The trio want to help tackle Britain’s housing crisis by building thousands of affordable homes across the country for deprived communities, complete with sporting academies where they will offer coaching to youngsters.
Their first project, which was unveiled last year, is to build 1,300 homes on a 22-hectare site in a run-down area in Houghton Regis near Luton. The plan for the site has a creche, a leisure centre with a gym and swimming pool and a sports academy, and open green space.
The Legacy Foundation have also been in talks with Colchester Council to build a similar complex at the Hythe, which will include a medical centre too.
Each scheme will have 45-50% social and affordable housing – and will also offer community services such as adult education classes.
Rio Ferdinand says: “I want to do something that my family and friends – and especially my children – will look back at and say ‘you know what, he did something for the community – he created something sustainable and helped people in those communities’. And this, The Legacy Foundation, is a great way of achieving that.”
The trio, who have also set their sights set on creating social and affordable housing in their home city, are keen to be recognised for who they truly are rather than as “footballers”.
Rio Ferdinand, who grew up in a council estate in South East London’s Peckham, has been instrumental in helping young people in some of the UKs most deprived communities, through crime-prevention initiatives, community footballing sessions and training in employment skills.
Rio Ferdinand says: “We’re currently known as footballers, but I don’t want to be known as ‘just a footballer’ for the rest of my life.”
Making a difference to local communities is at the heart of the trio’s joint vision. Sports plays a key role in that vision too. With the Houghton Regis site, the trio are intent on creating a real feeling of community, and not the “concrete blocks and typical 60s estates” they grew up in.
In an interview with Sports Management, Bobby Zamora added: “We were used to going to little charity events where you smile, take some photos and you don’t really feel like you’ve made a real difference. With Legacy, when it comes to it, you can see that you’ve majorly changed people’s lives, and that really means a lot to me.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. Follow Rosa on Twitter.