The process to make Aberdeen the first city in Scotland where ball games can be freely played in parks and community spaces was officially kicked off by a Scottish football legend this month.
Aberdeen born footballer Denis Law removed the first of hundreds of No Ball Games signs that have been a fixture across the city for decades on Friday, November 13. The former Manchester United and Manchester City striker was assisted by former team mate Mike Summerbee to carry out the landmark move.
The campaign to take down the iconic signs has been spearheaded by local charity Aberdeen Greenspace, which is committed to regenerating and developing city centre green spaces for community use. The organisation worked closely with Aberdeen City Council officials to get plans to remove the signs approved by councillors earlier this year.
Aberdeen Greenspace is providing £10,000 of funding to support the project and any subsequent planting that may be required. All of the signs are expected to be dismantled in time for the UK’s National Play Day on Wednesday, 3 August 2016. The day is an annual celebration of children’s right to play and highlights the important role that play has in their young lives.
Taking down the restrictive signs will see Aberdeen become the first city in Scotland – and one of only a handful in Britain – to have no signs in its parks and community spaces forbidding the playing of ball games. It is hoped that the move will improve the health and well-being of the city’s children by encouraging them to play outdoors in the newly liberated spaces.
To mark the removal of the signs and put the fun back into the city’s parks and community spaces, Aberdeen Greenspace joined forces with fellow local charities Cash for Kids and Denis Law Legacy Trust Streetsport, which is based at RGU Sport, to run the Aberdeen Ball Appeal. It called on north-east businesses and residents to donate balls which will be given to underprivileged children in the city.
A range of new and used sports balls – including footballs, rugby balls and tennis balls – were donated to the appeal which was managed by Cash for Kids. Denis Law Legacy Trust Streetsport will now begin to distribute the balls to youngsters to encourage them and their parents to head outdoors to play.
Aberdeen Greenspace chief executive, Michelle Herd, said: “As an organisation, Aberdeen Greenspace is committed to encouraging public use of the city’s community spaces. Taking down the No Ball Games signs removes the restrictions placed on these spaces, opening them up for greater use by the public, especially children.
“Denis Law has inspired many generations of aspiring footballers with his great skill. It is spaces such as those that feature these signs that Denis would have learnt some of his skills, so it is fitting that he has officially removed this first symbolic sign.”
Born in 1940, Denis Law grew up in the Printfield area of Aberdeen. He was the youngest in a family of seven and went barefoot until 12 years of age. On his 16th birthday he received his first pair of football boots from a neighbour.
Law went on to have a long and successful football career, starting in 1956 with Huddersfield Town. He spent 11 years with Manchester United and had two spells with Manchester City, where he played alongside Mike Summerbee. Capped 55 times for Scotland, he is the only Scottish player to have won the prestigious European Footballer of the Year award and his record of 46 goals in one season still stands at Manchester United.
Denis Law said: “This is a brilliant initiative and one that is long overdue. It will open up community spaces throughout Aberdeen enabling kids to kick a ball about freely with their friends, which is really important. Aberdeen Greenspace and the local authority should be commended for their work to remove these signs.
“Providing children in some of the city’s most underprivileged areas with a sports ball to play with through the Aberdeen Ball Appeal is a fantastic way to mark the first of these signs being taken down.”
Aberdeen City Council’s Convener of Finance, Policy and Resources Committee Councillor Willie Young said: “Removing the No Ball Games signs is a landmark move for Aberdeen. It is one that sees the city lead the way in Scotland when it comes to public participation in parks and community spaces. No Ball Games signs have been a restrictive feature of our city for decades, but by August next year they will be a distant memory. And, I’m delighted that football legend Dennis Law has officially kicked off the initiative here today.
“The health and wellbeing of the city’s children is important and outdoor play is crucial for many reasons. Not only will it allow children to be more active, benefit their health, it can also boost team spirit and bring the children of our communities together.”
Aberdeen Greenspace was established in 1997 as a joint venture between Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission. It works with local communities to improve the green space amenities in their area, including community gardens, outdoors sports facilities, children’s play areas, paths and parks.
The organisation provides funding to develop green spaces in and around Aberdeen with an aim to develop accessibility, increase biodiversity, improve the landscape and provide information and interpretation. Aberdeen Greenspace distributes funding on a quarterly basis and can provide up to 75% of a project’s cost.
Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport