After five months of hard work and countless hours in and out of school, Project MENKA from Freebrough Academy represented Middlesbrough Football Club in this year’s National Premier League Enterprise Final in London on Monday 23 April 2018.

Katie, Eve, Toby, Joe and Neo made the journey down to the nation’s capital the Sunday beforehand and took in the sights of Leicester Square, and the London Marathon before final preparation took place for the final at Ernest and Young Offices, in Central London.

The group were set the challenge back in November by the Executive Chairman of the Premier League Richard Scudamore, to increase the diversity of the club and to bring a return on investment to whatever idea they developed (no easy task).

Representing Middlesbrough FC, they came up with the idea of the MELA at the match which adapted an already existing idea and brought together Middlesbrough MELA and Middlesbrough Football Club, and after breezing through the club heat and regional semi it was time for the national final. They were up against five other teams from all around the UK including Watford, Wigan, Everton, Swansea and Brighton all vying to become the national champion.

After practising in the morning and ironing out a few last minute improvements, the moment was here and in front of a crowd of 150+ people including representatives from both Sport Relief and the Premier League, Project MENKA did their stuff presenting their ideas to a panel of judges which included Theo Paphitis (Dragons Den/ entrepreneur) Graham Le Saux (Ex England and Chelsea footballer) Alex Scott MBE (Ex England women’s football captain) and Peta Bistany (Member of the Premier League Board).

Mr Hooker, Business and Enterprise Teacher at Freebrough Academy told us: “After watching all the other teams present I must say the standard of presentations was extremely high and unfortunately Project MENKA narrowly missed out on winning with Wigan and Everton schools being the first ever joint winner of the competition in the last ten years.”

The team were obviously disappointed but that soon faded when they were presented back in the office with MFC football shirts and goody bags from Ernest and Young before they made the journey home to the North East.

Without doubt the students that took part showed the Daring Greatly qualities that Freebrough strive for and we are all incredibly proud of their efforts representing our Academy and to get to the final out of 140 schools and over 1000 students. They also have the legacy of the MELA at the match which has now been adopted by MFC for real seeing new fans from different ethnic minorities visiting the stadium and becoming new MFC fans.

Eve, Member of Project MENKA and Freebrough Academy student said: “This experience has been incredible and the skills that I have taken away from it will benefit me both in school and in later life. The best thing about the competition was travelling the UK and working in a team, it’s made me a much more personable person and we really did the best we could.”

Mr Hooker, also mentioned: “Katie, Neo, Joe, Toby and Eve should be incredibly proud of the way they have taken up this year’s Premier League Enterprise Challenge. The fact that MFC now use their idea is testament to the creativity and hard work that the team put in right from the get go, and they have the legacy that they are making a difference in our local community. I have no doubt that the skills they have used will set them up for their time at school and also in their future education or employment.”

MFC Foundation’s Premier League Enterprise Coordinator, Andy Downey said: “We are exceptionally proud of the boys and girls from Freebrough Academy, and what they have achieved on this journey to the finals.

“From their very first pitch back in December, we knew their idea was a great one, and with a little expansion could become a very real and feasible concept to deliver.

“There was some very tough competition at every stage of the process, but they can take this experience and use it towards any other enterprise they may wish to pursue in their budding careers.

“The fact that they actually managed to get Middlesbrough Football Club to bring their idea to life and deliver it on a match day was monumental; proving that their sound planning and hard work had paid off.”