Alan HubbardHe's 6ft 6in, black, five times a world karate champion and there's no one you'd feel safer with walking the mean streets of Manchester's Moss Side.

You can't ignore Geoff Thompson, though oddly enough the powers-that-be in British sport continue to do so.

For almost two decades now Big Geoff has done more than anyone in Britain to make sport an antidote to the culture of guns and gangs in troubled areas such as Moss Side and Liverpool's Toxteth. There they call him "Mr Heineken" because he gets to the parts others cannot reach.

I have written here before about the one-time king of karate who runs the Manchester-based Youth Charter, a non-Government funded body which does admirable work in taking sport into communities which are often the exclusive domain of the underprivileged and unruly.

Those credentials are worth repeating because he has just come up with a scheme which, in my view, could go some distance towards alleviating the recent problems encountered when disaffected young people turned to violent disorder bordering on anarchy.

Thompson's Moss Side story began in 1993 when he started the Youth Charter following the gunning down in Manchester of a 14-year-old Afro-Caribbean kid. "I can accept losing medals but I cannot accept losing lives," he says. He has always believed sport is an intrinsic part of the rehabilitation process, helping to set up sports programmes in a dozen prisons and young offenders' institutions.

"The sad thing is that most do not have the option to get involved further in the sort of programmes that inspired them while they were inside. But at least sport gives them a chance. If you use its unifying power in the widest social and cultural sense you start to find some of the answers."

In the jails and on the streets they look up to him, affording him the respect he surely deserves from the top brass in sports administration. Successive Sports Ministers have promised they would find him worthwhile national role; none have materialised.

Why, we wonder?

Is it because he remains a bit of a maverick. a loose canon who speaks his mind and asks awkward questions? He certainly talks a lot but much of what he says makes immense sense.

The Youth Charter, like that other admirable institution which fell foul of the previous Government, the Panathlon, has been largely unheralded but its contribution to keeping kids off the street through sport has been immense.

Geoff Thompson
Thompson (pictured), its founder and executive chairman, has seen what can be achieved in deprived areas and believes it can - and should - be extended to the rest of the country. But is anyone up there listening?

Apart from a brief spell on the board of Sport England some years ago, Thompson seems to be regularly overlooked when it come to top appointments .Yet he has obvious talents which could be employed advantageously, not least, I suggest, with 2012.

As a Londoner born and bred in the Olympic heartland of Hackney he is eminently suited to driving home the message of Olympic legacy among young sceptics.

Having watched the 53-year-old Thompson at work over the years it is evident he has more street cred than most other sports leaders put together. Which is why it is so odd that 2012 has not formally embraced him in its ever-expanding team.

Representatives of ethnic minorities are conspicuous by their absence at the top echelons of British sports administration Indeed, you would not require the fingers of one hand to count them.

So when someone as able and well-connected as Thompson comes up with a game plan which could not only help keep kids off the streets but infuse them with the ideals of Olympism surely it is worth earnest consideration.

Which is what Thompson's Youth Charter Legacy Manifesto aims to do, with a little help from us all.

One of its prime suggestions is that all sport and leisure communities facilities should be made available free of charge to those under-18 in the lead-up to during and after the 2012 Games.
An e-petition is to the Government being organised to this effect.

He says: "Anti-social behaviour, gang related activity, radicalised youth – all are problems being experienced in areas across the country impacting our social and economic well being nationally. With the present economic climate and huge rise in student fees one of our recommendations suggests that these facilities should be freely available to all young people. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) currently has a policy of free access to museums, but not sports, recreation and leisure facilities

"We need to reach young people in all communities, but particularly those most disaffected and disadvantaged. The legacy effort should not be an effort of competition, but of collaboration. We have lobbied and worked hard over a generation of legacy initiatives.

"We hope this Legacy Manifesto will be allowed to play an active part in contributing to the 2012 Games and their all important contribution to the wider social and cultural challenges that we are facing in our communities up and down the country, rural, suburban or urban."

What vexes Thompson – and he is by no means alone – is that so many kids in the Games Boroughs have said they do not feel that 2012 has any great interest for them. "They also felt that the Games had nothing in it for them. With no legacy effort communicated as part of the year countdown ceremonies, this is a major opportunity missed.

"Lord Sebastian Coe, recognised this fact, and stated that LOCOG needed to do more. Lord Coe also stated that these Olympics had the highest approval ratings of any modern-day Games to date.

"While this maybe true, and with ticket prices reflecting this fact, do the Games really engage , motivate and inspire the social and cultural pledges made in 2005?"

The manifesto represents the largest legacy consultation of all levels and aspects of communities and societies locally, nationally and internationally. "We have also consulted Mayor Johnson's office, as well as Lord Coe and members of LOCOG, Hugh Roberson, the Olympics Minister, David Chitterndale of the DCMS Select Committee, the BOA (British Olympic Association), Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport England, the British Paralympic Association, even the Prime Minister. There have been indications of interest but so far the only positive response has come from the Paralympic people.

"We need a more collective approach to ensure that the 2012 Games are used to meet the ongoing social and cultural challenges that we face in our communities and the disaffected young people who live in them."

The "2012 Sport Legacy Access for All" e-petition seeks to have the social and cultural benefits of this debated with the aim of seeing a real and sustainable legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to all young people in the UK.  It also aims to provide a response to the current debate on lessons that can be learned following the large number of 'recreational rioters' who participated in this summer's disturbances.

"The '2012 Sport Legacy Access for All' is about giving young people somewhere to go, something to do and someone to show them." says Thompson.

The petition needs 100,000 signatures within the next three months for Government action to be considered. I urge you to sign up here.

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire