EX-ARSENAL vice-chairman David Dein remains one of the most impressive people I have met in football.
Along with dozens of others, I was at the launch of his Twinning Project, a scheme to pair every professional football club and their local prison, with the intention of running courses on coaching and refereeing for inmates to give them a qualification.
Instagram @footballtwinningproject2 David Dein was joined by Ian Wright to launch his Twinning Project
David was the driving force behind the formation of the Premier League and is the man who persuaded the Arsenal board that Arsene Wenger, then a barely known coach, was their man for the future.
He is both a visionary and go-getter. He has always been socially progressive and was among the founders of Kick It Out.
For some while, too, he has been visiting schools and prisons to give motivational talks.
Still, you might be asking yourself why a 75-year-old multi-millionaire should want to do this, or why it should be done?
His first inspiration came from a serial school truant who told his headmaster that it was Dein’s talk that had persuaded him to “sort himself out and work hard”.
Reuters2 Troy Deeney is an example of someone who came out of prison to carve a successful career in football
Then he was spurred into action by the fact that nearly 64 per cent of people who leave prison reoffend within 12 months.
David has visited 106 prisons and, to my shame, I haven’t been to one. But what he tells me is that inmates lack the most important ingredient in our lives, HOPE — the hope that when he or she comes out of prison, they have skills to build a creative life rather than to repeat the destructive behaviour that put them there in the first place.
In many cases, ex-prisoners have a limited education, with 37 per cent finding reading difficult and 52 per cent having no qualifications at all. For 83 per cent, there is no paid employment to go to on release. And so the cycle begins again.
David believes in second chances. His motto is that everyone makes mistakes, so don’t let that be a reason to give up on them.
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Ian Wright, who joined Arsenal at David’s instigation, had been in prison and got a second chance at life through sport.
There are plenty of footballers who walked out of the forbidding gates and built or rebuilt careers.
Watford striker Troy Deeney is one, Tony Adams and Joey Barton two more — and I’m sure they all believe in the power of sport and how it makes a difference to the lives of so many.