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Why football clubs matter more than results

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Paul Fletcher | 12:17 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011

What does a football club mean to you? Are you only concerned about what happens on a Saturday afternoon/midweek evening and nothing else? Or does a football club play a more important role than that?

Take, for example, the story of Josie Ogle.

Desperate to find something that would give her terminally ill husband John some enjoyment in his last days, the pensioner spotted an advert in her local newspaper for a weekly social event at Watford Football Club.

"Had it been in a church hall, he would not have been interested but because it was at the football club he was happy to go," Josie told me.

They went along and discovered a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, with a range of activities from board games to Tai Chi and indoor bowls.

Specifically targeting the over-60s, the Extra Time club runs from 1000 until 1200 on Thursdays. For Ogle and her husband, it soon became a regular date in their diary.

"He was motivated every Thursday even if he did not feel well," said Josie. "As we made friendships, I think he saw that there would be something for me after he died."

The Extra Timers at Watford practise Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is one of the exercises at the Extra Time club at Watford. Photo credit: Watford football club

Josie's husband died early last year. Since then, the Extra Time club has played a crucial role in Josie's life.

"It has been really great for me. The support I have received since I have been widowed has been wonderful," she added.

The Extra Time club is funded by Watford and partners in the private sector. It is one of 10,000 projects run by the 72 clubs in the Football League, projects that enage more than 1.4m people, with more than 30% of them female.

Many of the activities, schemes and programmes have nothing to do with football.

"It goes right across the board," said Watford community director Rob Smith. "Take the area of health - clubs often deal with issues such as childhood obesity and a lot of them run mental health programmes."

Many clubs use football-related activities to help engage people, including the Street Life Soccer initiative in Norwich that helped Michael Douglas rebuild his life.

After moving to Norwich from Cumbria in 2002, Michael suffered a series of devastating personal tragedies, including a failed relationship that resulted in a period of heavy drinking and depression. He ended up rudderless, living in temporary accommodation.

A hostel worker at the YMCA pointed him towards Street Life Soccer. Apprehensive and unsure, he nevertheless went along, encouraged by the fact that the session was being run by coaches from Norwich City. It was the start of the process that has helped him get back on his feet.

"The sessions took away the negative thoughts," Michael told me. "I found myself being a key character and sometimes the leader in the groups."

Today, Michael has his own flat, a part-time job at the YMCA and has passed his Football Association Level 2 coaching certificate. He also works as coach for the Street Life Soccer project.

When I started to look into scale of the community work that clubs do, the sheer size of it took me by surprise.

At Watford, there are 22 full-time employees, more than 60 part-time workers and numerous people who help on a casual basis. The Charlton Athletic Community Trust has 42 full-time employees and a further 139 on a part-time basis, while League Two club Barnet had one member of staff a few years ago but now has nine.

Numerous projects illustrate the breadth of the schemes being offered.

There is the Winning Mentality project at Derby County that uses football coaching to help adult males in Derbyshire with mental health issues; the Changing Goals programme at Northampton Townthat uses football as a vehicle to engage young people and adults with a history of drug and alcohol problems; the Stand up for Autism campaign at Notts County; and the work done by QPR and the Down's Syndrome Organisation.

The list goes on and on.

Overseeing all this community work is the Football League Trust, which was formed in 2007. Dave Edmundson, the Trust's passionate and enthusiastic general manager, is a big fan of the projects and schemes that clubs run.

"We try to put on projects that can help anyone," said Edmundson, an ex-chief executive of Burnley. "The Premier League has a global brand that operates on a different stage but we work on the streets of England and Wales. The Football League club defines the DNA of the town that it serves and has the power to overcome natural suspicion.

"We have a 72-strong band of brothers and sisters marching together, grasping what can be achieved and the underlying overall purpose: to use football to make a difference."

To a greater or lesser extent, every club is involved in a permanent struggle to secure enough funding to maintain and develop their projects. The Professional Footballers' Association contributes but the payments from the Premier League have been restructured as part of the new solidarity deal and it is now up to each club to decide whether the money previously ring-fenced for the community programme is spent in that area. Each Football League club currently receives £25,000 from the Trust.

"I think it is important that we raise profile and awareness so that we can not only maintain support from football authorities but also external funding from public and private sectors as well as individual donors," added Smith. "We do get funding off the council but that is becoming increasingly difficult in modern times."

Football League Trust chief executive Dave Edmundson.

Edmundson is keen to spread the word about the community work at clubs. Photo: Football League

Smith is keen to develop Watford's presence in the local community by establishing a series of permanent hubs, branded in the club's colours and able to engage day in, day out with all parts of the community. Enticingly, the local council is in the process of letting out some of its community centres but finance could be a problem for the Hornets.

"We are looking to put a tender bid in for one of the centres, brand it up, hire it out and get funding for astro-turf," said Smith. "Everybody would win but the problem is that, because don't have support financially, it would be high risk if something went wrong."

I recently attended a Football League Trust function at which Edmundson and Football League honorary life president Lord Brian Mawhinney, among others, described the community work that clubs do as the organisation's best kept secret. They don't want it this way. They want their community work to receive a much wider audience.

To achieve that goal, Edmundson is keen to persuade key government decision-makers that his organisation can help them fulfil their aims for society. The Football League Trust has been chosen to pilot the National Citizen Service scheme, which is aimed at developing the skills of school leavers. Eight clubs will trial it in the summer, each one working with 100 people during a two-month period. Several clubs are also involved in the Future Jobs Fund scheme.

At the Extra Time club in Watford, regular attendees have started contributing a small weekly fee to help cover the costs. Josie told me that she has her fingers crossed that the club will continue to secure funding.

"Without it," she told me, "I do not know what I would have done after my husband died."

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This was a touching story but it surprised me because, in my opinion, it is about an extreme case of football relevance in one's life. We use football as we build heroes in our minds when we are kids. We use football to forget the daily problems and bring out the child when we're adults. Research shows that, on average, a human makes some 85,000 thoughts per day. If a fracton of those thoughts is occupied by innocent, football related issues, it's like an island of optimism in our life's.

    In this woman's case, though, it's in total contrast to the average reasons people follow football and clubs. Being actively involved with the club her late husband supported, instead of lightening up, brings personal memories back and we don't know if it would be better for her, alternatively, her thoughts to be about relatives and positiveness in life.

    I think it's an extreme example.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great column!

  • Comment number 4.

    1. At 3:12pm on 17 Mar 2011, HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:
    another pointless debate offered up by the bbc.


    Then why are you wasting your time on the website and mine by putting ridiculous comments on like that.

    Good article that shows football clubs do more than just pay astronomical wages and some are worth their place in the community.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have to say we should get what football is and what football clubs are in proper perspective. Nowadays it seems like football is a reference in everyone's life to extreme levels, as poster 2 said. Where social clubs, community centres, counsellors, youth clubs and church congregations provided this kind of support in the past, football clubs are now apparently expected to perform this type of activity and lauded for it.

    Of course these are nice stories but isn't it all because the government/local councils are shutting down youth centres and community centres because they don't have the money to run them, while football clubs make money? And also because social workers and teachers have their hands increasingly tied with red tape? Sure, I'm not saying these football initiatives are all negative and football clubs do have a role to play in their local community, but the moralistic overtones and the constant reference back to football in other aspects of our lives is sometimes tiresome. I enjoy football but I compartmentalise its importance in my life.

    I don't think about it 24 hours a day, I don't look to my football club to guide me in life, I don't make my football club revolve around simply everything I do, I don't look to players and managers as moral examples or role models- I don't think even kids should do that because it should be parents that always have the responsibility to set an example, not celebrities or footballers. If parents can't then schoolteachers should take that role, and not be castigated, disrespected and underpaid like they are currently.

    Why are we apparently obligated to respect someone just because they get paid a high salary, can buy nice cars, and kick a ball of wind around very well? These people aren't even worth that kind of respect. Why can't we respect our family, neighbours, teachers and people in less well paid positions.

    It's good to get that off my chest. I used to love football, but I'm mystified as to when and why players became celebrities and culturally influential personalities, and the same for the club themselves as institutions of cultural influence. it's 11 men kicking a ball around for god's sake. Have we all gone insane?

  • Comment number 6.

    This article shows that football clubs take on board old or younger people to join the club not just for football but different activities/work. Trying to raise awareness these things exist which is a good thing

  • Comment number 7.

    Another reason to be proud to be a Watford fan.

    It's things like this that make a football club community oriented. We may not have the world's greatest team but we have something to be immensely proud of in the way our club is run and perceived from the outside. Long may it continue.

  • Comment number 8.

    #1. HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:

    another pointless debate offered up by the bbc.
    ------------------------------------------------

    Not really, but if you think football only revolves around the so called big 4 then I pity you.

  • Comment number 9.

    Couldn't agree more #1. What a total waste of 5 minutes that was. So much so that I felt compelled to comment.

  • Comment number 10.

    4. At 3:50pm on 17 Mar 2011, usedtobefast wrote:

    1. At 3:12pm on 17 Mar 2011, HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:
    another pointless debate offered up by the bbc.


    Then why are you wasting your time on the website and mine by putting ridiculous comments on like that.

    Good article that shows football clubs do more than just pay astronomical wages and some are worth their place in the community.
    --------------------------------------------------------

    He probably didnt even read the article.

  • Comment number 11.

    Very different and thought provoking article, good stuff. Football brings together many very different people for very different reasons. There are many company sponsored football events here in Cambodia, but none have the kind of backing or history/depth in the community that the English league teams have from BPL down to non-league - really hope that can change here in a similar manner. Very encouraging examples of what impact a simple football team can have in the community, thanks for sharing.

  • Comment number 12.

    This is a great article. The work that is doen across the country to support communities using elite sports clubs is a key element in various elements of social welfare in a community. From developing social cohesion, to giving people a focus and a passion.

    This work is NOT just limited to football. Rugby Clubs of both codes and in more recent years cricket clubs have developed outstanding strategies.

    I runa social enterprise that specialises in this type of work. Since 2002 we have given young people from across the UK the chance to perform as dancers at amjor sports events across the UK and as I write this we are building up to our biggest eve event where 800 students from predominently very disadvanatged backgrounds will set a world record as they perform at Twickenham on St Georges Day as the world's biggest ever backing dance troupe for a popstar.


    In this instance sport, a huge stadium and the opportunity to work as a team will give these young people an incredible experience that will significantly raise their self esteem and levels of aspiration. You can follow the project in a very insightful blog www.proexcelblog.com

  • Comment number 13.

    Now then,

    Thanks for your thoughts so far.

    HAHA CharadeYouAre (post 1) - I'm very sorry that you feel that way. I have to say that I strongly disagree.

    At a time when the standing of footballers is arguably fairly low in the opinion of many, I think it is important to remember that a football club, especially lower down the leagues, remains so much more than its standing in the table. They are an important part of their community and do a lot of work to help the people they serve.

    Having said that, I think a lot of the work goes unrecognised and I see nothing wrong in pointing it out once in a while.

    Football _UK (post 2) - I think that Josie's story is very heartening and uplifting. I certainly think that she is glad there is an Extra Time scheme at Watford.

    Vox Populi (post 5) - I kind of agree that sometimes we lose our perspective on football and what really matters. I was hoping this article, in some tiny little way, would address that issue.

  • Comment number 14.

    #13 Paul Fletcher

    This may well be a very worthwhile article. And you're right to say that it's nice that the positives are pointed out.

    But, given the tittle tattle that passes for a headline article on BBC Sport and the general nonsense that is perpetuated by items such as the gossip column, I would imagine that you would be hard pushed to keep a straight face when you make such ironic statements as 'once in a while'.

    Example - Ashley Cole spent a certain day at a charitable event. That evening, he is involved in an incident at a nightclub.

    Which part of the day do you think the BBC made a headline out of?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7925963.stm

  • Comment number 15.

    Great column. Well done.
    Posters like #1 are wasting their time, and everyone elses, by reading and commenting on anything other than the latest score, and maybe the gossip colum. (They are the only ones likely to actually believe the drivel written in the gossip columns)

  • Comment number 16.

    Football clubs exist because a group of people in a community either started them or attend the games they stage. Poor results equals poor attendance.
    There are many clubs in the lower divisions doing something for the communities/towns where they are based.

    The reasons the public/fans carry on about results is because, if you take the game seriously, it means promotion, relegation or just lack of attendance due to poor "entertainment".

    If 60% of the revenue generated by the EPL was used for this sort of local community work, you could close the local council offices tomorrow.

    Unfortunately, and here's the disconnect, the money goes to foreign players, agents and buying Ferraris instead.

    The million dollar lifestyle for a select few, the rest of us are left to look on in disbelief. It's about time the FA got their act together and started regulating the game and it's excesses. In a similar way to how the governement "should" be regulating the banking and financial sector.

  • Comment number 17.

    MrBlueBurns

    You could devote a whole newspaper to reporting the charity events that high-profile footballers get involved from week-to-week. For anyone earning as much as they do, it would be a PR disaster NOT to get involved fairly regularly in charity 'work'. As such, it is pretty un-newsworthy.

    Getting arrested, on the other hand, is not something footballers do every day. Hence the news story.

  • Comment number 18.

    Most football clubs used to be a community based thing so I for one am glad to see this tradition being continued (Even if my team is at the moment having a break from the football league and having a season in the conference lol)

  • Comment number 19.

    Thank you for a positive piece! Given a lot of what gets reported and blogged on it is a breath of fresh air to read articles like this...

    At it's core football is a social activity and it makes a great deal of sense to use it's popularity as a social platform for the benefit of it's locality, the suprise is that it is actually being done in such a big way!

  • Comment number 20.

    #17 kanchelskis_legend

    That's not the point I was making. Paul mentions 'once in a while' as if he is deriding the agenda that is set. Well, as a journalist on here, why doesn't he do something about that agenda.

    If you think charity work is ten a penny (which may well be right) but that other incidents are news worthy by their rarity, are you suggesting that they would have nothing to write about if naughty things didn't happen? No, they could write about the good things.

    Therefore, why can't they write about the good things anyway?

    The article on Cole was sensationalised by being written as it was because it's easy to make a negative point out of someone who has been given (rightly or wrongly) the reputation that he has - by journalists like Paul! And thus the circle is complete.

  • Comment number 21.

    Football Clubs certainly do a lot of worthy work for their local communities, and it's nice that they have roots there, however football clubs can also be very divisive. Would Mr Ogle have gone had the scheme been run by Luton Town for example? Probably not, meaning his wife would have missed out on a valuable scheme. While Luton and Watford probably wouldn't work within the same area, such a scenario may be the case in Sheffield, Nottingham or Bristol, for example. Branding events by club may not always be for the best.

  • Comment number 22.

    @Vox Populi - I think football originally resonated with people because it tugged at our atavistic, tribal instincts; Us vs Them. Nowadays that has been lessened but football has the same power to exhilirate people as art or literature, whether that is good or bad is personal opinion. I am just pleased to see that some of the clubs are actually using their influence and wealth for something positive.
    The cringeworthy aspect comes in when we look at the Premier League and how much of the clubs wealth is reinvested into the communities they came from. If a wage cap were to be introduced, so much more money could be ploughed into the local area and it wouldn't just be charity, if they ran local football leagues and gave out coaching they could unearth local talent that might otherwise be lost. I realise this is an unlikely event but we have to have hope.

    Mr Blue Burns - Unfortunately a lot of people still see footballers as celebrities rather than athletes, it's a self-reciprocating problem that only serves to lessen peoples love of football. I do think however that we can't always blame individual bloggers/ journalists as they probably have editors etc breathing down their necks at all times.

  • Comment number 23.

    I fully agree with all those praising this article for bringing to light an aspect of the football world that all too often gets ignored. It is heartening to know that clubs continue to play an active part in the communities where they are based and give something back to the society of which they are an integral part. My own (PL) team is having a great season, but I am even more proud of the excellent work being by its foundation in efforts such as those mentioned here.

  • Comment number 24.

    Like all sports clubs, some are solely competitive, some are more social and some combine the two.

    Human relationships always start with something in common. So a common love of a particular football club is one way for new relationships to start. I certainly remember the guy who introduced me to Arsenal met his girlfriend going to games.

    I think those who go regularly to away games tend to focus more on results, whereas there are many for whom meeting up with friends before and after the game is just as important as the result, although clearly it's not much fun watching a team lose all the time.

    A club can, of course, make a conscious decision to become part of the community. Movement, or more often lack of it, is often associated with health or lack of it. Tension can result if people don't move about enough, as humans were designed to be on the move. So football is one way of addressing that, just like running can be, cycling can be and aerobics can be. Movement gets you breathing deeply, which is good for well-being, it makes your muscles work, good for joint support and keeps your weight down, good for cardiovascular issues. Clearly, football clubs know a bit about training and exercise, so they can contribute there.

    At the end of the day, football clubs can be as much in their communities as they choose to be, their local communities want them to be and societal conditions dictate they should be.

    So long as they don't get power complexes about it, implying that no-one but them can do it, it's fine.

    I worry though when football clubs think that their sport is the be all and end-all of British life.

    In fact, I'd like them cut down to size when they take that attitude.

    Because they're not, and no healthy society would ever let them be.

  • Comment number 25.

    Allow me to start with an irrelevant example.
    I was watching a tv program where a cook took part in an experiment to improve nutrition in military meals, also reducing cost and trying to improve other relevant attributes of the problem in question. He did. He created a menu of meals nutritious, at a lesser cost, more tasty, while saving storage space. But there was more to it. Perhaps the whole armed forces might modify the way soldiers are fed. The initiative was ordered by the military. There is connection to this article.

    When you have a club where some individuals take initiative to also provide service to the local community it is a nice thing to do, romantic as a thought but it never provides measured improvement in all local communities. Such issues, to have an end result, must be initiated from the top, with clear targets of improvement and with an aim to nationwide application. Otherwise, such schemes die out when people involved stop being involved.

    As it was pointed out by (5) Vox Populi, this is a side effect of seeing local community centres dying out due to cuts in funding and (should I mention not well off citizens?) are asked to contribute so that such schemes, when started, to be able to continue.

    Is this the right approach, though? I would definitely say no!
    You can't mix football with such activities, for many reasons. Just to give a quick example, imagine an elderly citizens function to be taking place and some fight to kick off out of the blue, initiated by a few hot headed people supporting different clubs. If you think about it, you can find numbers of negative examples. Sport is sport. It is a subnet of community activities but of a special interest and, perhaps, it should remain as such.

    To give some food for thought, though, on possible additional functions of football clubs, we could see what happens in other countries.

    If you research the question, you will see that, in other countries, a club is much more than football. It supports many sports: basketball, volleyball, handball, athletics, restling, swimming, etc. You see athletes of a club, wearing shirts with the same club emblem and name participating in the relevant sport, in such championship format. However, this is supported from the top and applied with sports legislation, nationwide (this is where the starting example provides itself useful).

    If such initiatives take place and get implemented, you will soon notice that local communities start getting actively involved with the club. Maybe it is difficult to find a Walcott, a Rooney, a Lampard or a Gerrard, but every person could take part at some sport. Thus, families would be more actively involved with clubs and clubs would mean much more to the local communities.

    If some form of competitions could be identified for senior citizens, it is the only logical format I can identify myself, for citizens of the given example of the article to benefit from the existence of a football club, which by that time would be called sports club. Otherwise it is an ad hoc, temporary initiative.

    Without even thinking about the effect such a direction of current football clubs would have to the local communities, it is easy to see that:
    a) numbers of young people involved in crime would be reduced
    b) numbers of young people involved in drugs usage would be reduced
    c) additional avenues would appear for young people to improve their whatever talents.

    In such a way, clubs can provide a great service to communities, nationwise, in an organised fashion.

  • Comment number 26.

    Our local club has had to cut its community program (I know those who lost their jobs) because of cuts in government funding to sports partnerships. So I'm not totally sure that it is the clubs who are funding what you describe in the blog.

    I think it is great when clubs do get involved in the community, and far more time needs to be given to thinking through how large facilities which are unused can be made available.

    Its ironic that "had it been a church he wouldn't have gone" is at the start of the article. Huge numbers of churches have had to think through how they make their facilities available and have done so with no government funding. Credit to them, because that is what other clubs should be doing, and not just football.

    I walk my boy to school past a tennis club that is always empty (apart from a few weeks in the summer, but is never made available to the school during the day)

    My other boy goes to school next to the council run sports centre. It has eight five a side astro turf pitches that are unused every day, yet it would cost the school £15 for half an hour to use one. They wont give discounts to schools.

    THe key debate has to be about access to facilities. They are there, but just not used. When are stories like this going to encourage governments and wealthy clubs to think about the access to these facilities, so that involvement in the community is the norm and not news-worthy.

  • Comment number 27.

    Great Blog, makes a refreshing change.

  • Comment number 28.

    1. At 3:12pm on 17 Mar 2011, HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:
    another pointless debate offered up by the bbc.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please do pull your head out of the sand.

  • Comment number 29.

    What it make a difference as to how the club was used and how it embraced the local community in terms of sharing facilities, if it was actually owned by the fans, like many clubs in Europe, instead of a millionaire/billionaire owner?

    A friend of mine lives very close to a Bundesliga 2 club and both the fans and the local community are often involved in events at the club. He has membership and is part of the decision making of the club itself, on all matters, including recruiting of players and staff. It is still the local community's club, rather than a billionaire's plaything.

    This article highlights those who are trying to make a difference for the community in an environment where the odds are stacked against them from the start. Even if it is only a small difference, it's definitely nice to read about it.

  • Comment number 30.

    Even the example given by Mr BlueBurns is a sign of the times we live today.

    It is true that footballers do attend many charity functions. Is anyone wondering why, though?

    All community projects, programs, initiatives whatsoever stop being funded one after the other, as the government makes cuts everywhere.

    At the same time, you will find out that SAF, Wenger, Ancelotti, Rooney, Tevez, Torres, Toure brothers and so on WILL PAY TAXES THIS SEASON WHICH ARE MORE THAN WHAT A MAJOR HIGH STREET BANK will pay, after having made billions of profits. This sas initiative has already been passed to a major, household name, supermarket chain and every multinational company with hugh profits are already working their ways to see what they can avoid being translated from revenue into cash transferred away than being paid as taxation. If you think I'm joking, think twice.

    After the paragraph above, return to the article, having in mind that funds to local communities are cut, in a wholesale fashion. And think: is it football fans who spend time reading about their teams that are brainless or the ones that govern us?

  • Comment number 31.

    We tend to forget that Football and any other Sports is much more than overcoming the opponents on the pitch. Its about physical toning and mental honing. If only we could see beyond the score...

  • Comment number 32.

    Interesting article. Perhaps clubs should do more to publicise the activities they are involved in with local communities. It should be a given that clubs are closely linked with the communities that they operate in. They have a lot to offer other than taking fans money, in fact some would say they have a moral obligation to give something back to the community that supports them.

  • Comment number 33.

    Think some of the people here (namely Letsbe_avenue and were ngoing to ibiza and whatdoiknowaboutanything) missed a rather important in the article: "The Professional Footballers' Association contributes but the payments from the Premier League have been restructured as part of the new solidarity deal and it is now up to each club to decide whether the money previously ring-fenced for the community programme is spent in that area. Each Football League club currently receives £25,000 from the Trust."

    So it's the Premier League that provides the funding for the Football League Trust. And if you go onto the Premier League website you can see in their annual report that they gave the Football League £1.4m for its Trust last season. And you'll also see they've spent £111m on good causes in local communities in the last three years and that 14m people in those communities have benefited from it.

  • Comment number 34.

    I volunteer for Playing for Success in Wolverhampton, which is an after school scheme for kids to help with their work, but it also helps with their confidence and social abilities.

    Wolverhampton Wanders is really pivotal in the keeping up of this scheme in the area, and with the government cuts coming in there hasnt been a better time for the football club to be helping.

    More than just a club is an understatement.

  • Comment number 35.

    Don't worry about HaHaCharadeyouare. He's well known for his rather useless comments on an amazing variety of topics he clearly knows nothing about.

    Good little blog - which meant more to us supporters of lower division clubs though I know that big clubs do their bit too. It's just that lower league teams have less resources. One of the reasons I love Brentford is that they have always been a part of the community.

    @Donttrustthegovernment - you're right, but the teams I know most about advertise what they do quite a bit (as far as resources allow).

    @whatdoIknowaboutanything - I'm not sure what happens everywhere but I do know that at many places individuals or businesses get involved and work in partnership with the club. This helps the smaller clubs and associates the businesses with a tangible aspect of the local community.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    That's what I call weak moderation!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    I love football and I’m a Brentford fan too. But this article does have a flavour of religious fervour about it and I agree with some other posters that we need to keep football in perspective. Also a lot of these set-ups will have significant levels of funding from the tax payer and yet still make much of their status as ‘charities’. There is an increasingly uncomfortable alliance between celebrity and charity in our society and the day that football becomes synonymous with charity will be a very sad one as far as I’m concerned.

  • Comment number 40.

    As a Luton fan it pains me to say it, but there is a lot of good things coming out of W**ford at the moment.

    Puts the premier league and its resources to shame

  • Comment number 41.

    The problem is clubs are beginning to matter less and less except to businessmen or mega-rich ego-maniacs.

    Clubs used to be one of the pillars in the community especially with many having early links to things like religion or trade unions, but now Wimbledon can uproot to Milton Keynes and Spurs would trot across to East London and totally ignore the rich and very proud beginnings of their existence. Why should all that matter when the business decision is just so good?

    Clubs like Luton or Leeds are dished out harshed judgements, Sheffield United have created the 'rush to court threat' culture that will just get bigger and bigger (QPR et al will be next) and clubs are going bust for tax bills that are less than the monthly salary of several PL players. Lovers of football are ever decreasing as fans now talk about being a football fan second after their club which is (obviously) first, or winning being more important than financial stability (see Pompey and Arenal fan comments).

    It's all quite sad and getting worse.

  • Comment number 42.

    Its a good article that, enjoyed it. Very good to be reminded in this day and age that some clubs are still playing their role in the local community.

  • Comment number 43.

    22 Were Ngoging to Ibiza

    Mr Blue Burns - Unfortunately a lot of people still see footballers as celebrities rather than athletes, it's a self-reciprocating problem that only serves to lessen peoples love of football. I do think however that we can't always blame individual bloggers/ journalists as they probably have editors etc breathing down their necks at all times.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Blame the editors, blame the journalists, it's all the same. What Paul has done here will have passed by an editor.

    The point remains, those in a position to set the agenda, can't moan about the agenda they set. (And the BBC, as a non-competitive, public organisation, should carry this through more than anyone.)

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    As an 8 year old (some 43 years ago) my Dad took me to Highbury but more than that he taught me to be a football fan first and an Arsenal fan second which I have retained and in turn taught my daughter. At school and beyond my friends could not (and some still do not) understand my attitude.

    Stories like this remind us that football is not solely about the over paid prima donnas taking home 4 or 5 or 6 times my annual salary in a week it is about being a member of the community and giving back to the community some of what the community puts in via the turnstiles.

    Great article I know some of what Arsenal try to achieve in Islington what do other clubs at the top of the pyramid give back to the fans that supoort them season in, season out.

  • Comment number 46.

    This is one of the great things that local or regional clubs can do for the communities who love them. In many ways they can fill the void that years ago would have been filled by churches or working clubs. I wonder if those who feel a closer community connection to their local clubs see this happen more than supporters of larger clubs, who generally do not have local or community ties to them? I also wonder if it's a way that ailing clubs without the celebrity lure of fame and success can win back support from local fans who now regard them as their 'second' team as they pledge their allegiance to more fashionable teams.

  • Comment number 47.

    to #40 ducknumber1, thank you. That geniunely stopped me in my tracks. Now come on, get your team back in our league please! Life is rubbish without a derby!

  • Comment number 48.

    Paul, if you could enquire whether amongst Charlton's 181 community workers they possess a box-to-box centre midfielder and a centre half that can turn quicker than a ship, myself and 15,000 others would be most grateful.

  • Comment number 49.

    Morning Gents,

    Didn't know if India were going to manage it last night, but fair play to them, some good bowling fielding, kept Pakistan's score down.

    SS - so was that a more important / tense game than the final could be, just because of the teams involved?

  • Comment number 50.

    Do all comments require moderation?

  • Comment number 51.

    Apparently so

  • Comment number 52.

    Now then Baggie.
    Dont think mine got modded mate :)

  • Comment number 53.

    I may be wrong???????????

 

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