With the spotlight falling on Turf Moor for tonight’s Europa League fixture, the CEOs of both Burnley FC in the Community (BFCitC) and Aberdeen FC Community Trust (AFCCT) shine a light on the extensive community work being carried out by both clubs in their respective communities.
There are numerous ways our story here at BFCitC is similar to that of AFCCT. Just like Ally, I arrived in Burnley with a clear task in hand – to ensure the club was actively engaged in its community.
When we established the charity in February 2014, there were just three members of staff and we didn’t have a penny in the bank account – we really were starting from scratch. But what we did have was a clear vision about what the club could and should be doing and we made it our mission to inspire, support and deliver real, tangible change.
Through establishing key partnerships in the region, we identified the specific needs of the communities here in East Lancashire and West Yorkshire and we built bespoke provision around those needs. And we’ve been doing the same ever since.
Fast forward to just over four years later and we’re proud to be offering our town the vibrant, engaged and thriving community offer it deserves.
We now employ over 80 people in full and part-time roles and we deliver 35 community projects across the region. Last year alone, these projects engaged with over 27,000 people and we invested £2.7m into our local area.
Our projects include: disability sport sessions that benefit over 800 disabled people every week; free football sessions for young people in the most deprived parts of Burnley; social sessions and a Dementia Cafe for senior citizens; mental health groups; football opportunities for hundreds of local females; walking football; weight management classes and employability workshops that are helping long-term unemployed people get back into work, education and training.
We also now have a portfolio of facilities that include the UCFB Burnley education hub at the stadium, the iconic Whitehough Outdoor Centre in Pendle, the soon-to-be-opened £4.2m Leisure Box at Brierfield Mill and the Burnley Community Kitchen in Burnley’s town centre.
We’re proud of the fact that our work has now also been recognised multiple times on both a regional and national level. We have now won Community Club of the Year at the North-West Football Awards for the last three years in a row and only this week it was announced that we are one of only 35 organisations from around the world to be on the shortlist for Beyond Sport’s Global Awards. This is a significant achievement for us – we’re proud to be showcasing Burnley to the world!
Ultimately, our success is down to the many partners, stakeholders and individuals who champion our work and believe in the transformative power of football. A club, like Burnley, that sits at the heart of its community possesses a powerful ability to connect with people, whatever their walk of life. Long may it continue.
I arrived at Aberdeen FC five-and-a-half-years ago in February 2013. At the time, taking charge of a small community department primarily delivering participative football programmes.
With a background in policing, I was tasked with adding community focus and partnership thinking into the inner workings of the club. The club knew it had the opportunity to be doing even more in its community, acutely aware of its unique position as the only major football club operating in the North-East of Scotland. With that in mind, in March 2014 we established Aberdeen FC Community Trust as a registered charity, financially separate but intrinsically linked to the football club.
Determined to be a community asset offering flexible, creative and innovative ways of dealing with the issues facing the communities in Aberdeen City and Shire, we also established key partnerships with other organisations in the area to ensure we were delivering best practice across all our areas of work.
The singular position of the club to engage with local people, matched with our ability to serve local communities’ specific needs, resulted in the rapid expansion for our charity and the many success stories we are proud of.
From just a handful of staff five years ago, we are now a team of 40-50 strong and we have a volunteer base that has grown from zero to 80. This was recognised recently when we picked up the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services – a huge accomplishment for us. From when we were established, participation rates are up 300%, engagement with our programmes is up 500% and the number of programmes we deliver is up 600%.
Looking forward, a big focus for us this season is increased participation in schools as we work with our local primaries and secondaries to help increase engagement and attendance amongst pupils. Also, along with the club, we have recently secured planning permission for dynamic and purpose-built community facilities co-located at Aberdeen FC’s new training facilities and stadium, which are currently being built. This year will see us developing all our community programmes to link into these new facilities to create an important link between our participants, fans and our new AFC and AFCCT home.
The reach of football is boundless and powerful; whether it’s on a local, national or international platform. We’re proud to be using the unique position our football club holds in our community – just like it does in Burnley – to be changing lives for the better in North-East Scotland.