Chelsea FC's £60,000 project hailed as 'huge success' by Sutton Council
A controversial council scheme to pay Chelsea FC £60,000 to promote health and fitness to children has been branded a success - by the council.
Sutton Council signed a deal to pay the former Champions League winners, who are bankrolled by billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, £60,000 to come into schools to promote healthy living and boost the profile of the £8m Life Centre in October last year amid concerns the project would be a waste of money.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is the 50th richest person in the world
Now the council has reviewed the scheme and hailed it as a "huge success" but opposition councillors have questioned the figures it used to back up the claim.
Sutton Council said the programme of school visits, breakfast clubs and training sessions resulted in over 7,000 "positive outcomes" for children - including increased attendance and raised nutritional knowledge.
But Conservative councillors, who criticised the scheme when it was launched as a one year pilot, have labelled the figures "window dressing" and questioned their validity.
A council report says 4,700 pupils at 21 schools went to breakfast clubs attended by Chelsea representatives, 1,800 attended extra PE coaching sessions and 439 went to after school clubs.
To evaluate the success f the project the council tested sample groups at Muschamp Primary School and Manor Park School on their knowledge of health and nutrition and found an increase. There was also a reduction in absenteeism.
Councillor Colin Stears, lead councillor for public health, said: "The borough’s schoolchildren have benefited enormously from this project which has proved to be a huge success.
"The figures speak for themselves and they clearly show that thousands of local kids have learned valuable lessons while having a lot of fun."
But Tory councillor Tim Crowley questioned how the figures could be relied upon without a control study and councillor Tony Shields added; "This is one of the biggest loads of rubbish I've seen come out of this council.
"The statistics are just window dressing and shouldn't be presented as the truth without much more detail."
The one year pilot study has drawn to a close and the council is now looking for another professional football club to extend the project with for the next three years. Chelsea will provide the services for another three months while another club is sought.
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