• Three more years funding announced after success of Urban Stars project in Belfast; project will now expand into North and West Belfast
  • ‘I am delighted to be back in Belfast to see the progress being made and to announce this major new initiative in the city’ – says Sean Fitzpatrick
  • Urban Stars uses sport to engage vulnerable young people who are identified as being marginalised from mainstream society
  • Pictures of Sean Fitzpatrick in Belfast at

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND, November 4, 2014 – Laureus World Sports Academy Member Sean Fitzpatrick, the legendary All Blacks rugby captain, visited Stormont, the home of the Northern Ireland Government, today to announce a further three-year funding commitment to use sport to help young people in Belfast.

Fitzpatrick met First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and informed them that the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and St. James’s Place Foundation, in partnership with Active Communities Network, would be extending their commitment to young people in Belfast to 2017.

The additional funding will allow the Urban Stars project, which the organisations support, to extend its activities into new areas of North and West Belfast, including disadvantaged areas of the Shankill Road.

Fitzpatrick, who played 92 international rugby matches from 1986-1998, including 51 Test matches as captain, said: “I came to Belfast two years ago to see Urban Stars in action shortly after Laureus began its support and I am delighted to be back today to see the progress that is being made and to announce this major new initiative in the city. Belfast has gone through some challenging times and is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, so it gives me great pleasure to be able to announce that the project which we began to support in 2011 will now continue until 2017 and expand to other parts of Belfast.

Earlier in the day, he joined West Belfast MP Paul Maskey and Councillor Stevie Corr at the Bunscoil An Tsleibhe Dhuibh Primary School, where he gave rugby coaching and played tag/touch rugby with the children. He also visited the Urban Stars project at Hammer Youth Club in Shankill, where he joined Councillor Brian Kingston and met some of the young participants. He took part in various activities and participated in a question and answer session before announcing the new long-term partnership.

Fitzpatrick said: “Having met the young people at the project and talked to some of the leaders, it’s clear to see what a significant impact Urban Stars is having in this area, providing skills and guidance to ensure that those taking part can fulfil their potential. Sport can help to boost self-esteem, encourage teamwork and build self-confidence. It’s projects like this that can make a massive difference, not just to individuals but to the whole community.”

On a busy day, Fitzpatrick also had a breakfast meeting with Suzanne Wylie, the Chief Executive of Belfast City Council to discuss ways in which the city could become involved in the Urban Stars programme.

Despite the end of civil disturbances and the introduction of power sharing, Belfast remains an area of high unemployment, with almost one in four young people looking for a job. This has a heavy human cost in the city and causes a wide range of social problems.

Since its creation, Urban Stars in Belfast has seen over 700 attending sessions, which use sport as the means to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour for young people aged between 13–19.  The programme also works to help the re-integration into the community of young people leaving care or leaving young offenders’ institutions.

The programme offers sports such as football, boxing, weightlifting, basketball and dance, as well as offering mentoring and group work opportunities to enhance personal development and leadership training. More than 10% of participants return to the project as volunteers.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: “The Northern Ireland Executive recognises the value and importance of sport to life in Northern Ireland and how it has the potential to bring divided communities together. Sport creates interaction between people and groups fostering mutual respect and building social cohesion. I welcome today’s announcement that the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and St. James’s Place Foundation, in partnership with Active Communities Network, will be extending their commitment to young people in Belfast to 2017. This funding will ensure that the Urban Stars project will be able to extend its activities into new areas of North and West Belfast, including disadvantaged areas of the Shankill Road.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “Sport is a great unifier and the conversations we had today with All Blacks rugby star Sean Fitzpatrick about his career and the progress of Urban Stars further supports this. Sport teaches valuable life lessons and can be the catalyst for personal and community development. Sport builds confidence and improves social skills, which is important for the development of our children and young people.

“Individuals and the local community benefit from participation in these projects. I commend the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and St. James’s Place Foundation for the work they are doing with Active Communities Network to deliver the Urban Start project which has involved 700 young people from Belfast attend a range of dance and sport sessions.

Jim Donnelly, Head of Programmes (Northern Ireland) for Active Communities Network, said: “Following the success of Urban Stars in tackling some of the social and economic issues in the area, Laureus have now committed to another three years and this long-term commitment to our work is key to helping alleviate the issues that our communities face. With this new funding and support from our grassroots community network partners, we are now able to extend Urban Stars into North Belfast and into more cross-community settings.

Sean has kept a keen eye on Belfast since Laureus first began its support in 2011. He is very interested in the work and the young people here and with the support of politicians from across the political spectrum we all look forward to increasing the positive opportunities Urban Stars provides.”

Sean Fitzpatrick is a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, 47 of the greatest living sports legends, who volunteer their time to act as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, whose mission is to use sport as the means to combat some of the world’s toughest social challenges facing young people today such as juvenile crime, gangs, HIV/AIDS, discrimination, social exclusion, landmines awareness and health problems like obesity.

Since its inception, Laureus has raised more than €60 million to support projects which have helped to improve the lives of millions of young people. Currently Laureus supports more than 150 sports-based community projects around the world.

Urban Stars, managed by Active Communities Network, takes place across the UK with projects in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England with over 4,000 vulnerable young people, of which over 25% are female, having accessed coaching, mentoring, training and support to help them engage with mainstream society and maximise their life chances. Urban Stars originated in London (Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark) in 2009, before extending to the West Midlands (Birmingham and Coventry) in 2010, and Manchester in 2011 and then Belfast, Bristol and Glasgow as a national programme with additional support from the St. James’s Place Foundation and Sport England.


About Us

Laureus is a universal movement that celebrates the power of sport to bring people together as a force for good. Laureus is composed of three core elements - the Laureus World Sports Academy, Laureus Sport for Good and the Laureus World Sports Awards - which collectively celebrate sporting excellence and use sport as the means to promote social change. The first Patron of Laureus was Nelson Mandela. At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, he said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” This has become the philosophy of Laureus; the driving force behind its work. The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy are: Giacomo Agostini, Marcus Allen, Franz Beckenbauer, Boris Becker, Ian Botham, Sergey Bubka, Cafu, Bobby Charlton, Sebastian Coe, Nadia Comaneci, Yaping Deng, Marcel Desailly, Kapil Dev, Mick Doohan, David Douillet, Rahul Dravid, Luis Figo, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sean Fitzpatrick (Chairman), Dawn Fraser, Cathy Freeman, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Mika Häkkinen, Tony Hawk, Maria Höfl-Riesch, Mike Horn, Miguel Indurain, Michael Johnson, Kip Keino, Franz Klammer, Tegla Loroupe, Dan Marino, Yao Ming, Edwin Moses, Nawal El Moutawakel, Li Na, Robby Naish, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, Alexey Nemov, Jack Nicklaus, Brian O’Driscoll, Alessandro Del Piero, Gary Player, Morné du Plessis, Hugo Porta, Carles Puyol, Raúl, Steve Redgrave, Vivian Richards, Monica Seles, Mark Spitz, Sachin Tendulkar, Daley Thompson, Alberto Tomba, Steve Waugh, Katarina Witt, Li Xiaopeng and Yang Yang. The Laureus Academy Members volunteer their services as global ambassadors for Laureus Sport for Good, which was set up to promote the use of sport as a tool for social change. Laureus Sport for Good addresses social challenges through a worldwide programme of sports related community development initiatives. Since its inception, Laureus has raised over €100 million for projects which have helped to improve the lives of millions of young people. The mission of Laureus Sport for Good is to use sport as a means to combat some of the toughest social challenges facing young people today such as violence and crime, discrimination, unemployment, lack of education and health threats including HIV/AIDS and obesity. The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier global sports awards honouring the greatest sportsmen and women across all sports each year. The winners are selected by the ultimate sports jury – 60 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, the living legends of sport honouring the great athletes of today. The Awards are presented at an annual Awards Ceremony, attended by global figures from sport and entertainment, which is broadcast to 160 countries and territories. The Awards continue to support Laureus Sport for Good by showcasing the incredible work it does with athletes and partners to transform the lives of individuals and promoting to a global audience the power of sport as a development tool to combat challenging social issues. Laureus was founded by its Patrons Richemont and Daimler and is supported by its Global Partners Mercedes-Benz and IWC Schaffhausen. Mercedes-BenzMercedes-Benz is the inventor of the automobile – and has been passionately shaping its future since 1886. As pioneers in automotive engineering, it is both our inspiration and responsibility to continue the tradition of the brand with trailblazing technologies and high-quality products. Like no other trademark in the automotive world, Mercedes-Benz appeals to both the hearts and minds of its customers. We give our very best for customers who expect the very best. Since the founding fathers Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz, our corporate history has been one of innovation and pioneering achievements. Many technical innovations that are nowadays standard in automobiles first entered the market in a Mercedes-Benz. This is the basis for our claim to leadership in automotive engineering. The brand stands for Modern Luxury, and enjoys an outstanding reputation for quality, safety, comfort, design and comprehensive, sustainable mobility. IWC SchaffhausenWith a clear focus on technology and development, the Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen has been producing timepieces of lasting value since 1868. The company has gained an international reputation based on a passion for innovative solutions and technical ingenuity. One of the world’s leading brands in the luxury watch segment, IWC crafts masterpieces of haute horlogerie at their finest, combining supreme precision with exclusive design. As an ecologically and socially responsible company, IWC is committed to sustainable production, supports institutions around the globe in their work with children and young people and maintains partnerships with organisations dedicated to climate and environmental protection.