The majority of professional footballers in this country support a team other than the one they play for but unquestionably the majority also give 100% effort and commitment to the team they are a part of. Similarly, the programmes run by community trusts up and down the country are not attended by adults and children that exclusively support the club that organises those programmes, but they are enthusiastic participants, nonetheless.
I was the Executive Vice Chairman of the Charlton Athletic Community Trust for five years after I stepped down as CEO of the football club and by the time I hang up my working boots in 2024 I will have worked the same period of time for the Millwall Community Trust. Local football rivalries are wholly irrelevant to the work of community trusts and I would like to see more joint working amongst all clubs to tackle some of the big issues in society today. Charlton and Millwall have linked up on the Street Violence Ruins Lives campaign and food poverty is a big challenge in the current Pandemic where families are having to deal with the effects of unemployment and reduced income.
It is positive that the Government has called for evidence to be submitted to the DCMS Committee on or before 16th November and Millwall will be submitting evidence and I will as Chairman of Integral Sports Management. I don’t believe the Government currently has any in depth insight into the role of community trusts in their local communities and how many individuals would suffer if those trusts disappeared as a result of the pressures being faced by their parent clubs. Believe me it would be a massive void that cannot be filled by other agencies. It is also false economy because the work done in the areas of health and education in particular save the Government millions of pounds.
There are 67 Community Trusts allied to the 72 professional football clubs in England and Wales. Although independent in legal terms from the football clubs whose badge they wear, each one of these trusts is dependent on the financial well-being of their associate clubs. In 2020, some 38 million person hours of individual participation were delivered comprising 18 million on sport/physical activity, two million on health and wellbeing, 9.5 million on education and employability and 8.5 million on community engagement. £63 million was spent directly on community and social programmes and there were some 30,000 professional player engagements.
The range of work undertaken by trusts is huge and tackles anti-social behaviour, crime, drug abuse, educational failings, obesity, poverty, street violence and much more and this is in addition to the significant number of courses run in schools and programmes for adults and children with disability and walking football for seniors. In the current health crisis, the NEET programmes for young people (Not in Education, Employment and Training) will become vital role in providing employment opportunities. Most trusts work closely with Pupil Referral Units, the Probation Service, Young Offenders Institutions and Local Authority specialist teams and all this could be lost.
The Arts has received some £1.5 billion in financial support from the Government, but football is told to sort out its own problems. Young people in the 18-25 age group are and will find getting a job very difficult in the years to come and if the support community trusts offer is taken away then don’t be surprised if that disenfranchisement leads to a breakdown in social cohesion. The DCMS Committee must act to stop this and provide the support young and vulnerable people need in these challenging times.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management
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Photo Credit – CAFC/James King.