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A group of young people from our Premier League Kicks project have beaten off competition from students representing St Cuthbert's RC High, Monkseaton High and Southlands School to win the Newcastle United Premier League Enterprise Challenge (PLEC) held at St James' Park. They will now go forward to the Northern finals which will take place in just over a month's time on the 13th March at The Stadium of Light. There they have the opportunity to progress to the national final which will be on the 30th April at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London.

The PLEC provides opportunities for students aged 14-19 to put forward their solutions to real-life challenges that football clubs face. The Challenge is the annual highlight of the Premier League Enterprise Academy (PLEA), a programme giving young people a unique insight into the running of professional football clubs, learning by using real business examples drawn from their club.

"The challenge is somewhat deeper and more detailed than it has been in the past," said Richard Scudamore. "The young people have risen to every challenge we have set them so this will stretch them even further."

This year's challenge was to try and engage more of a following for the Premier League from Africa and USA. More specifically to try and develop plans and formulae to increase income streams from rapidly developing areas in the world.

The students had to develop strategies as to how the football club could attract fans from overseas to come and watch games, how to engage fans using their digital channels, and also how the club's assets could be used to generate interest and enthusiasm in the targeted countries.

The possibility of representing a Premier League football club in a nationwide competition is something that excites the students and pushes them to work harder in the challenges.

"They all want to represent their football club and that's something that is really special about the challenge. When we say it to young people that you have the chance to represent Newcastle at a national event, there's a wow factor," said Sam McLoughlin, project manager for community at Newcastle United Foundation

Initially 150 students entered the Newcastle United stage of the competition and this was whittled down to 50 who pitched their ideas at St James' Park. They then demonstrated their plans and strategies in front of the judges who were; Ian Payne (ITV Tynes Tees), Brian Kilcline (former player), Owen McAteer (Business Editor, Northern Echo) and Kerry McCabe (Policy Advisor, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).

All of the students enjoyed the experience but only one group could come out on top, and the Kicks group now have the honour of going forward to represent Newcastle United at the next stage of the competition. Credit goes to St Cuthberts RC High, Monkseaton High and Southlands School for pushing them close with their ideas.