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Empire Fighting Chance

Non-contact boxing and mentoring for at risk young people.

Evaluation type

Feasibility & Pilot study
See project

Organisation name

Empire Fighting Chance

Funding round

Launch grant round




South West, South West, West Midlands, Wales

Activity Type

Sports programmes




Manchester Metropolitan University


July 2023

What does this project involve?

Empire Fighting Chance (EFC) aim to use non-contact boxing programmes accompanied with personal development support to reduce anti-social and criminal behaviour amongst at risk young people. Their programmes combine physical activity sessions with one-to-one or group mentoring support, where coaches encourage children to work on personal development points designed to improve behaviour.

Why did YEF fund this project?

As the YEF’s toolkit explains, sports programmes are associated with a high average impact on reducing serious youth violence and crime. However, there are considerable gaps in the evidence, particularly relating to robust evaluations conducted in an English or Welsh context.

YEF, therefore, funded a feasibility and pilot evaluation of EFC’s programmes. The feasibility study examined several EFC’s interventions. It aimed to ascertain whether these programmes achieved their intended outputs for their intended target groups, explore the barriers and facilitators to delivery, detail how much of the interventions young people received, and assess quality, responsiveness, and reach. To explore these questions, programme monitoring data on 831 participants and an online satisfaction survey undertaken by 204 young people were analysed. Interviews were also conducted with 10 project staff, and 6 participants and their parents. 10-14 year olds who were at risk of involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour were targeted by the programmes, and the feasibility study ran from November 2019 to June 2021.

The pilot study then evaluated a new, school-based, boxing mentoring programme, which combined elements of EFC programmes examined by the feasibility study. This new programme aimed to deliver a 12-week mentoring intervention in schools, where weekly physical activities (including skipping, circuit training, punch pads and boxing techniques) were delivered by an EFC coach. While leading these sessions, the coach would discuss ‘Personal Development Points’ with children (such as the importance of regulating mood, eating well, and taking responsibility for your actions). The programme targeted pupils in Year 8 and 9, who had demonstrated behavioural difficulties, poor attendance, and an interest in sport.

The pilot evaluation aimed to assess how feasible an efficacy randomised controlled trial of the programme may be, inform the design of a future evaluation, and assess whether there is any preliminary evidence of promise. To explore these questions the evaluator analysed quantitative project delivery data, administered questionnaires featuring validated measures (such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Problem Behaviour Frequency Scale (PBFS)), and interviewed 17 pupils, five project staff and six teachers. Of the 91 children in the pilot study, 64% identified as White, 13% as Black, 11% as Mixed Ethnicity and 9% as Asian.

The pilot commenced in September 2021 and concluded in June 2022. Both the feasibility and pilot studies took place during the coronavirus pandemic, requiring both the delivery and evaluation teams to adapt to challenging circumstances.

Key conclusions

The feasibility study found that all three programmes were delivered to young people, with 1,050 young people receiving an intervention. No significant barriers to delivery were identified (although it was recognised that the mode of delivery was often adapted due to COVID-19). Fifty-nine per cent of young people received up to five sessions of a programme, 28% received up to 10, and 13% more than 10.
The feasibility study found that EFC coaches had the right experience and background to work with targeted children. The children interviewed and surveyed found the interventions engaging and perceived their own behaviour to improve as a result of the programme. The evaluator posited that the use of boxing to deliver a therapeutically informed intervention differed significantly from alternative services.
In the pilot study, EFC recruited eight schools against a target of 12 (67%) and 91 pupils, compared to a target of 144 (63%). EFC were able to effectively explain the trial to those schools involved, and the evaluation design (including randomisation) was deemed acceptable by EFC, schools and parents.
One hundred per cent of pupils involved in the pilot provided data at baseline; 62% then provided follow-up data five months after randomisation. However, as a result of a small overall sample size, there was insufficient data collected in the pilot study to assess whether the school-based boxing mentoring programme demonstrated evidence of promise.
The small number of pupils interviewed in the pilot had positive perceptions of the EFC sessions. Pupils reported that EFC staff listened to them and provided encouragement and engaging activities.

What will YEF do next?

YEF recognises the evidence gap currently underpinning sports-based youth violence reduction programmes. Given many of the positive findings detailed in this report, YEF is, therefore, exploring whether an impact evaluation is possible.

Download the report