Belfast boxing hero Carl Frampton has spoken of how sport offered him a way out of some potentially destructive situations whilst growing up on a North Belfast interface.

The Tigers Bay native – who’s Ambassador for the Sport Changes Life Foundation – made the admission at a conference at Ulster University promoting the role of sport in addressing division and supporting diversity of communities.,

The Sport Changes Life Foundation aims to raise aspirations of young people on both sides of the Atlantic through a combination of sport and career development activities. The conference brought together community outreach workers, the police, volunteers and university students to explore the power of sport to enhance ambitions of children from socially and economically deprived areas.

The World Super Bantamweight champion said: “The Sport Changes Life Foundation is reaching out to working class communities to develop the social skills and career prospects of young people through sport.

“Growing up on an interface, I have witnessed first-hand the tensions that can exist and boxing gave me a way out. As an Ambassador for the Sport Changes Life Foundation, I want to help young people focus their energy on sport as a way to change their lives for the better.”

One of the foundation’s flagship sports outreach initiatives includes eHoops, a basketball-based programme of education, sport and personal mentoring targeted at 16- to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training.

The foundation also coordinates the Victory Scholarships programme, inviting postgraduate students from the United States to study at universities across Ireland and deliver sport outreach initiatives in local disadvantaged communities.

Deirdre Brennan, Professor of Physical Education and Sport at Ulster University and co-founder of the Sport Changes Life Foundation, added: “As founding partner of the foundation, Ulster University is helping to drive social change through sport. The university is at the forefront of research in peace building and conflict resolution. By combining this with our world-leading research in sport, we are delivering real benefits to local communities.

“Since its inception in 2010, 87 per cent of participants in one of the foundation’s programmes, eHoops, have taken up or remained in education, training or employment.

“Statistics from the PSNI also state that, in one area alone there was a reduction in hate crimes of 76 per cent in the first three months of the programme.”