Blackburn Rovers Men in Sheds initiative has given Fred his confidence back

After having a stroke, Fred distanced himself from the outside world, with a noticeable change in Fred’s confidence his wife gave him the encouragement to make a positive a change.

Fred’s wife, Hilda, became aware of the Men in Sheds project facilitated by Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, in late 2022 and encouraged her husband to attend a session, held on a Thursday morning at Ewood Park.

Initially Fred took a cautious approach to the group and wasn’t sure if it was for him. However, Fred continued to attend the weekly sessions and he admitted he was made to feel so welcome by the Community Trust staff and fellow participants, he wanted to make sure Men in Sheds was actively a part of his life.

Fred’s confidence continued to grow, and he has since started attending the Community Trust’s FIT FANS group to improve his physical well-being and he has completed a CPR online programme called Reviver.

Fred, aged 71, said: “Ilyas Patel (Men in Sheds lead) was so good to me from the start and explained how the project helps men.

“Due to my lack of confidence, my brother-in-law joined me for my first session, and I felt welcome straight away.

“I had recently suffered a stroke and I spent a lot of time at home doing nothing. The doctor said I needed to get out and get involved in an activity.

“I was apprehensive about joining as I felt I would be doing plenty of physical activities and my body wouldn’t let me. However, Ilyas made it easy for me and said we are not just a gardening club, we are much more than that.

“Not all the lads do physical work due to their health, so I join them, have a cup of tea and a chat.

“Men in Sheds has been a great thing for me as my mental health has not been the best. My confidence has improved, I have started doing more things at home, and it is great knowing I have somewhere to go every Thursday and meet my new friends.

“I would honestly be lost without it after what I have had to go through.”

Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s Men in Sheds lead, Ilyas Patel added: “Fred has gone through an awful lot and all he wanted was to try and get back to his normal self. He feels Men in Sheds has helped him and with the support of the team he feels he is now on the right track.

“Men in Sheds is all about helping and supporting men who might suffer from mental health, loneliness or just want to get involved in a new hobby and make new friends.

“It is so important to raise awareness about Men in Sheds and groups alike to ensure as many people as possible can access if they need support. Alongside this, it is important to celebrate the success that participants have had with the programme, so they feel valued and encourage others to take part.

“Mental Health Awareness Week is an amazing opportunity for people to find out more and raise further awareness.”

 

FIT BLUEBIRDS provides turning point for Stephanie

Stephanie was approaching her 49th Birthday and was looking for ways to improve herself physically and mentally. After receiving an email from Cardiff City Football Club, which highlighted the new 12-week FIT BLUEBIRDS programme, she signed up immediately.

Prior to joining FIT BLUEBIRDS, Steph was suffering from PTSD, she was attempting to return to university to complete her masters in youth work and was planning for two big family events; her daughter’s wedding and her son’s 21st birthday.

However, she was struggling with her mental health and found herself in a very dark place.

“No matter what I did I just couldn’t look forward to anything, I couldn’t plan anything, I had no self-worth, and I didn’t know who I was anymore”.

When she arrived At Cardiff City Stadium for her first FIT Bluebirds session, Steph was immediately reassured to be joining a group of women who were in a similar situation to her, and made her feel that she wasn’t on this journey alone.

Everyone in the group was from different backgrounds, different ages and different abilities but they were all there for the same reason; to get fit and learn how to develop and maintain lifelong healthy habits.

“It was lovely to meet new people who were in the same situation as me – they found it hard to find the time to exercise and diet or didn’t have the confidence to exercise and diet”

The free 12-week programme gave Steph and her fellow FIT BLUEBIRDS the opportunity to learn in a safe and welcoming space supported by Community Foundation coach, Matt Jones.

“Matt didn’t dictate what we should or shouldn’t eat, he added it in gradually like he did with the exercise. We weren’t judged on what we did every week”.”

As the weeks progressed the group learned more about topics that would help support them in leading a healthier and more active lifestyle and covered subjects including the importance of sleep, food groups to alcohol consumption, and increasing their daily step count.

For Stephanie, it clicked! The information she was learning each week was sticking in her mind and made sense in a way that it hadn’t before – it was so much more than setting a goal weight or a calorie target, it was simply about learning how to maintain weight loss, develop healthy eating habits and improving the mental health of the individuals.

Ultimately, the focus was on how participants felt.

“Matt never put any pressure on us, he just gradually builds up the sessions each week and we just began to feel improvements. Whether it was weight loss or inch loss or being more conscious of what we were eating. For me it finally gave me a sense of belonging.

I cannot imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t had the opportunity to do this because it just gave me a massive sense of self again and gave me the opportunity to make changes that have made me feel physically and mentally better.”

Since completing the programme Stephanie has a renewed outlook on health and well-being. FIT BLUEBIRDS has equipped her with the knowledge to continue her positive journey and has even inspired her to become a volunteer with Cardiff City FC Community Foundation!

“By volunteering I can combine the two of these things and hopefully make a difference to other people’s lives. I’ve said many a time, the slogan for the Community Foundation is ‘Our Club Changes Lives’, but for me, FIT BLUEBIRDS saved my life.”

Extra Time Hubs with Wigan Athletic Community Trust offers Dennis a new lease of life after Parkinsons diagnosis

For Dennis Heaton, living with Parkinson’s disease has brought a number of challenges.

But six months after becoming involved with Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s Extra Time programme, the retired welder has a new-found confidence which has seen him reach new heights by going rock climbing at the weekly session.

Running through the Wigan Athletic Supporters Project – the initiative aims to tackle social isolation amongst older people including Dennis – who reveals the positive impact it has had on his life.

“Having Parkinson’s disease has curtailed me a little bit”, he said. “It got me down a bit you know, it makes life slower and obviously more difficult and I worry about what people will think.

“But after going to my doctor I was told about the Extra Time programme by Katie – my local Community Link Worker. On my first day I was a bit nervous about meeting new people because you wonder how they’re going to react to you.

“I was made welcome straight away with a cup of tea, a biscuit, a game of dominoes and straight away I just fitted in like a glove.

“It’s really boosted my confidence; I feel a lot better and in fact I love coming. I joke with my family that on a Tuesday I’m going to my youth club.

“There’s always something to do whether that’s a game of pool, or the air hockey, I enjoy the walking football, badminton and I’ve even done rock climbing. There’s always something and there’s always somebody who’ll come and sit with you.

“I look forward to it every week and would say if anyone is thinking of coming then just come, enjoy it and give it a try and you’ll be surprised at how much it can change your life.”

Rock climbing at the session – which runs at Wigan Youth Zone every Tuesday between 1pm-3pm – is one of many activities on offer to members and for Dennis was something he was keen to have a go at.

He added: “I really enjoyed [rock climbing], I didn’t think I could do it, but I just had a go, if you don’t have a go you don’t know, do you?

“I had a go and next think I knew; I was up at the top. I flew up!”

Katie Ramsdale, the Community Link Worker for Wigan Central, who referred Dennis, says it’s wonderful to see the difference in him.

She said: “When I first met Dennis, I realised from meeting him on the first off, that he was quite socially isolated and quite low in mood.

“He had no confidence and he’d isolated himself because of his medical condition that he has. We spoke about social groups that could possibly be good for him to attend which is how he ended up attending and enjoying the Extra Time session.

“The progress he has made since then has been absolutely amazing from him not wanting to go shopping with his wife or wanting to walk the dog.

“Now six months down the line he’s got a new set of friends, he’s climbing the wall and doing loads of activities that he probably thought he was never going to have an opportunity to ever do.

“It’s been wonderful being part of that and seeing that progress.”

In January Dennis was recognised as the Trust’s Communtiy Hero as part of the English Football League Community Weekends. The nationwide celebration recognises the work of football clubs and community trusts in their local communities.

 

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EFL Clubs and their Community Organisations to deliver nationwide Kellogg’s Football Camps

This summer, the EFL, EFL Trust and their network Club Community Organisations have partnered with Kellogg’s to launch the Kellogg’s Football Camps.   

While Club Community Organisations have supported their local communities with holiday camps for many years, this year – teaming up with one of the UK’s most popular cereal brands, Kellogg’s – will make the summer holiday camps bigger and more exciting than ever.

Alongside football powerhouses Manchester City, Rangers and Celtic, the football camps for girls and boys aged 5-15 years will reach from Grimsby to Glasgow, and Plymouth to Peterborough, supporting parents in keeping their kids active and entertained across the nation during the school summer holidays.

Kellogg’s is giving away 30,000 free places for the camps before they kick off.

Legends of the game came together to launch Kellogg’s Football Camps at Birmingham City’s stadium, St. Andrews at Knighthead Park, with Jermaine Beckford and Michael Dawson, as well as children from local schools taking to the pitch to celebrate the launch.

“For me, football camps during school breaks were where I had the most fun, kicking the football around with your mates.

“The EFL has such an advantage being part of so many different communities up and down the country, and to have Kellogg’s on board this summer to give so many kids the same opportunity I had when I was younger is really exciting.”

Michael Dawson, former Hull City and England defender

“One of the many strengths of the EFL is that we can provide football camps for children at the heart of communities up and down the country.

“The EFL and our Clubs are excited to join Kellogg’s to continue not only creating stronger, healthier and more active communities, but also provide environments where children can forge long-lasting friendships through football.”

Debbie Cook, EFL Director of Community

“Most families will be within 15 miles of a Kellogg’s Football Camp, giving children up and down Britain an opportunity to get active this summer. Run by FA qualified coaches, the camps aim to be fun and to give girls and boys the opportunity to get onto the pitch and follow in the footsteps of their footballing heroes.”

Chris Silcock, Managing Director of Kellanova (the company that owns Kellogg’s)

Kellogg’s Football Camps sessions will take place throughout June and September. To claim a day parents can buy a promotional pack in-store, and sign their kids up at www.kelloggsfc.com

**18+. GB only. 2,500 camp places released weekly during 01/04/24 – 24/06/24. Purchase promo pack by 24/06/24 and claim by 16/08/24. Kellogg’s Football Camps session times and dates vary club to club. Visit kelloggsfc.com to claim camp space. Max 2 claims per household. Retain receipt. For further T&Cs, see promo packs and visit www.kelloggsfc.com

Remember the Rovers Visit Senior Training Ground

Ahead of Blackburn Rovers fixture wit Ipswich Town, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s Remember the Rovers group made a special visit to the Senior Training Centre.

The group, which has been running since 2019, brings people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia together weekly in the Darwen End Stand at Ewood Park and discuss their memories of following Rovers over the years in a social setting.

Now regularly attended by more than 40 people each Wednesday, the group have been on a number of Football related trips including to the National Football Museum and Deepdale.

The group have also organised visits with other club’s charitable organisations such as when they linked up with a group from the Manchester United Foundation and took part in a ground tour of Old Trafford as well as having lunch and a Q&A with former United and Rovers duo David May and Wes Brown.

In addition to this, they recently went on their first ever away day together in Rovers’ recent draw with Middlesbrough and met up with Middlesbrough FC Foundation’s Team Talk group.

Last Friday 35 participants had the privilege of visiting Blackburn Rovers’ STC where they enjoyed a tour of the facilities before they watched the First Team be taken through their paces by John Eustace’s coaching staff.

The group also received an audience with Blackburn Rovers CEO Steve Waggott, and ended the visit being able to part in a Q and A with Eustace and his coaches Matt Gardiner and David Lowe.

Gordon, a Remember the Rovers participant, remarked on the visit by saying “I’ve really enjoyed the day and to come inside the (STC) building and see the facilities has been tremendous.

“Blackburn Rovers is such a big part of life, and I never miss a game so to get the opportunity to speak with John Eustace was great!”

John Eustace added “As a professional footballer or coach you are very privileged and have a huge level of responsibility to those that support the club.

“Wherever I’ve worked I’ve tried to instil the idea of being a family and the most important thing for me is the fans and the players are one, so it was great to meet the group who are a part of a fantastic organisation.”

EFL Clubs recognised at Parliament for standout community work

A number of EFL Clubs and players were celebrated at the Houses of Parliament for their outstanding ongoing work in the community.

As part of the 2024 EFL Awards, divisional winners of the Community Club of the Season and Community Project of the Season were recognised for their exceptional work and outstanding impact in their respective communities over the past year.

Recipients of the EFL Player in the Community Award, which is sponsored by the PFA, were also celebrated in front of guests.

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The EFL Community Awards celebrates the immense power of Clubs in their communities and the important role they play in making a difference to the lives of so many people.

For a long time, EFL Clubs have held a prestigious place in the heart of their respective communities. Engaging with more than 840,000 people per season, providing support 365 days a year, they play a crucial role in positively influencing lives up and down the country.

Hosted by Sky Sports’ Emma Saunders, winning Clubs were honoured at the annual EFL Community Awards – a special event at the House of Commons.

More than 150 representatives made up of guests, Clubs and Members of Parliament were present as winners were celebrated and given the opportunity to showcase some of the unique and outstanding work they are delivering in their respective communities.

People whose lives have been directly affected and positively influenced by this impactful work were also invited to share their personal stories.

EFL Chair, Rick Parry, said:

“It’s a fabulous day from the EFL’s point of view. To hear all the wonderful stories from people who are involved in these community schemes, reminding us all that Clubs are far more than just football teams, they are quite literally the beating hearts of their communities.

“There is so much good work going on having such a wonderful impact on people’s lives and the beauty of today is, it brings that work to life.

“The way I describe it is, in 72 Clubs, we have 72 social entrepreneurs. They are responsive, they are agile, they get things done quickly and effectively and they respond to the direct needs of people in their area. There are a number of underlying themes and Clubs share best practice with one another, but we constantly see so many new ideas and new programmes being introduced that make positive change.”

EFL Player in the Community for the Sky Bet Championship, Will Vaulks, added:

“I think you can argue that Football Clubs are mostly the most important thing in their cities, certainly at the Clubs I’ve played at.

“Clubs have such a responsibility in the community and with that, make such an impact on the local people. They provide jobs and they provide help in so many areas and they do a lot of work to tackle issues that are so hard to tackle, that’s what is great to see.”

Vaulks has won the award twice previously with former Clubs and expressed the importance of players’ presence in the community.

“Clubs can open their doors and bring people in because of the badge and because people support the Clubs, but players have a massive role to play. If players appear at charitable events, a mental health programme, a football session, whatever it may be, it tends to bring more people along. And I think players play a really important role in bridging that gap.

“In my opinion, we have a responsibility as players to dedicate this time to society and we have a duty to be a good role model.”

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Overall winners for each of the categories will be announced and celebrated at the EFLl Awards Ceremony at Grosvenor House, London, on Sunday 14 April.

More information on each divisional winner is listed below.

EFL Community Awards – Divisional Winners:

EFL Community Club of the Season

Championship – West Bromwich Albion

During 2023, the Albion Foundation, the official charitable arm of West Bromwich Albion, engaged with 13,060 participants through a variety of projects and activities in the Sandwell area. More than 21,700 sessions were delivered with 434 per week and over 38 hours of contact time per participant. The ages of participants ranged from one year old at the Mini Baggies football sessions, to 101 at the Hawthorns Hub Memories Group sessions. A key area that the Foundation also prides itself on is the work done in disability sport, with 17% of participants having special educational needs and disabilities. Twenty-three of the Foundation’s 41 teams are disability focused including powerchair, blind football and cerebral palsy football.

League One – Charlton Athletic

In 2023, Chalton Athletic’s Community Trust (CACT) engaged with 25,000 participants, with the work of the Trust having a reported value to society of £49.6million (validated by Greenwich University). CACT’s health staff are integrated into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital discharge team, providing social prescribing and resolving practical issues to speed up patient discharge times and reduce bed blocking – a national Government target. More than 7,400 cost of living support referrals were received from Charton’s Primary Care partners, which lead to CACT making  11,222 outward referrals to support people in need of help. Charlton Athletic continues to remain committed to EDI excellence, with training provided to the Club’s Board and a women’s network established last year.  The charity has also established a young leaders programme to provide a training and development pathway for CACT’s future leaders.

League Two – Swindon Town

Swindon Town has remained committed to its goal of being a constant catalyst for positive change in 2023, focusing not just on football but on leaving a lasting legacy within Swindon. With participants aged over 90, Swindon’s Staying Connected sessions provide a support network for those whose needs might not meet the required standards for social intervention from the NHS or local councils. This year, Swindon also welcomed members of the Ukrainian community to Foundation Park, to help give them a sense of belonging in Swindon and feeling of home during their stay. Swindon’s 2023 Christmas Donation Appeal garnered an overwhelming response, with nearly 200 presents generously donated. These gifts were then presented to charities offering crucial support to Ukrainian refugees.

EFL Community Project of the Season

Championship – Bristol City – ADD Mentor

Bristol City’s ADD-Mentor project is centred around a commitment to supporting the development of a young person’s life through the use of a mentor who helps navigate mentees away from negative influences in their troubled life, find a new purpose and become a positive pillar that gives back to their community. The project sees trusting relationships built between known young people in the community and the mentors (who both have lived experience of the challenges the young people are dealing with) to give them an opportunity to change. Police reports have shown 100% non-engagement with anti-social behaviour with each mentee impacted in year two of the project.

League One – Port Vale Community Cupboard and Lounge

One participant from port Vale stated that ‘if the support Port Vale Foundation offers was in tablet form, then it should be prescribed to everyone!’ The Community Cupboard and Lounge has supported 6,000 visits during the last 12 months of the cost of living crisis. The Foundation provides access to advice and support in areas such as housing, benefits, mental health and employment and aims to be inclusive, compassionate, and practical. The project also works to reduce isolation, reduce reliance on statutory services and provide a non-threatening, non-clinical environment in which people can connect and access services they need.

League Two – Morecambe – Veterans project 

Morecambe’s project aims to reduce isolation of Veterans, as well as those that live alone and are elderly. The project has provided training for veterans of all ages, including employability, first aid, food hygiene, wellbeing and local history. Veterans have been referred into services such as debt management, benefit advice, home fire safety checks, and addiction services. Over 150 unique, individual veterans signed up to the project, with a record number of 72 attendees at 2023’s end-of-year-event. The session provides a bacon butty, unlimited brews and a safe space for veterans aged from 19 – 90 to socialise with likeminded people.

EFL Player in the Community, sponsored by the PFA

Championship – Will Vaulks, Sheffield Wednesday

Will Vaulks has won the award for his strong and supportive connection to the Club’s Community Organisation work and his wider charitable commitments including the Bluebell Wood children’s charity and the role he played in executing The Baton of Hope relay for mental health awarness.

League One – Marlon Pack, Portsmouth

Marlon Pack has been recognised for his keenness to support the wider community of his boyhood Club, his commitment to fan engagement, coaching in the community (including supporting the Academy team in his spare time) and his dedication to one-on-one time with several fans in need of support and special treatment.

League Two – Farrend Rawson, Morecambe

Farrend Rawson is acknowledged for his ability to carry his influence on the pitch into his community work and spread his enthusiasm for the importance of player support into the first-team dressing room. Farrend has supported school projects, the Extra Time programme for the over 60s and at Christmas, organised players and staff donations to buy presents for children at a local hospital.

Sutton United Supporting The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity

To mark the start of an exciting new relationship between Sutton United and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, four Sutton United first team players, captain Craig Eastmond, Sam Hart, Louis John and Rob Milsom, visited The Royal Marsden’s Oak Centre for Children and Young People in Sutton earlier this month.

The players were also joined by Rob Milsom’s younger brother Nick, who was treated for Leukaemia at the hospital in 1995 when he was only three years old.

Rob commented: “It means so much to me and my family the work that they do here at The Royal Marsden, especially thinking about my brother Nick who was affected at such a young age and owes so much to the fantastic staff here.”

The players met with more than twenty children and young adults, speaking with them one-to-one and gifting them signed Sutton United shirts.

Club captain Craig commented: “Visits like this are special to us players as well. We look forward to coming back to visit again very soon.”

Louis, Rob and Sam also took part in some fun football games with the children, and the positive impact of the visit for patients was clear to see.

Louis said: “You could see how much it meant to these young kids to have us there visiting from the big smiles on their faces.”

Sam added: “It really brightened up their day. For us players, it feels great to be able to give something back to these kids who have had such a difficult start to life. Everyone was really impressed with Louis’ keepy-uppy and ball balancing skills! He did get nutmegged on the goal line a couple of times!”

As part of the relationship between The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and Sutton United, the club will be offering young patients the chance to be included in the excitement of match day as they walk out with the team as honorary Mascots.

Amy Mullins, Head of Community Fundraising at The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, said: “We are delighted to be working with Sutton United and are really grateful to those at the club who have made this memorable experience possible for these young patients. The club’s support will also help to ensure The Royal Marsden continues to provide the very best treatment and care and develop new treatments that help cancer patients around the world.”

The club will also be launching a special, aubergine-coloured shirt, with £3 from the sale of each shirt to be donated to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity to support its vital work. This will give Sutton fans and the wider local community the opportunity to support this brilliant cause and help to raise awareness of all the wonderful work they do.

This new special edition kit will be worn for Sutton’s home game on 23rd March 2024 versus Accrington Stanley in partnership with O’Neill’s, and could replace the green away kit for the forthcoming 2024/25 season.

A simple love for football: Tawana and Tayana’s journey to the England Talent Pathway

Tawana and Tayana first fell in love with football aged just 4 after their older brother introduced them to the game. A scenario that many girls with brothers, whether they want to or not have found themselves in from being the goalkeeper to simply being someone they can pass the ball too. However, for both girls their desire to be involved in the game didn’t need to be forced as they soon started mixing it with the boys on the playground at Primary School, they proved themselves to be worthy on any team as they up representing the school and won a cup competition in a mixed futsal team with very little female representation. Once again, a situation numerous girls across the country will be familiar with but this didn’t dishearten Tawana or Tayana.

In fact, it did much the opposite and enlighten a hunger from them to want to join a team. After a chance meeting with Handsworth Girls who were fundraising in their local supermarket, the girls were invited along to training before progressing in to the U9 team where they were huge successful as they progressed through the age groups.

Similarly, to their Primary school days, the girls excelled in their Secondary school team which is where their talent was spotted by Millie Kenyon from Sheffield Wednesday who nominated the girls to attend a England Talent Pathway event in Leeds. The girls attended the event along with Poppy who made up their trio as they competed in a 3×3 tournament which allowed for the event to be fun and for the girls to really show their creativeness. Despite the nerves, Tawana and Tayana were successful in catching the eye of the FA and their progress is now being monitored as part of the FA Women’s England Talent Pathway opens up the possibility to considered for England Youth Teams.

Millie Kenyon  said: “The Talent Inclusion programme has been a great way for us as a community programme to give girls an opportunity to showcase their football, the chance to access this opportunity that wouldn’t be there for them.  Through our referrals this gives local girls who play for grassroots clubs to access the women’s talent pathway.  The girls I referred Tawana and Tayana both twins who have lots of potential and are very talented young players. Both girls attended our EFL Girls Cup last year, out of over 100 girls that attended this school’s competition both of the girls ability stood out.  Through our partnership with the Talent Inclusion programme I knew the characteristics of a player they look for and could see that both girls had shown these characteristics.”

The Talent Inclusion programme ensures that through existing community activities, female participants with potential can be identified and referred to the FA England Women’s Talent Pathway. The programme is specifically run by EFL Club Community Organisations, who engage with young girls from low social economic communities and underrepresented groups, and looks to refer talented players who may not access traditional talent pathways due to social class, ethnicity and demographic.

Not only were both girls’ avid footballers but they also played basketball for Sheffield Hatters as their parents exposed the girls to lots of different sports as they believed that sport is positive, constructive and enables character-building. Eventually, the girls had to decide whether they would pursue either basketball or football, the two sports they flourished in; both chose football.

As they had made that pivotal decision, they would almost immediately reap the rewards of this as they were offered a trial at women football giants Manchester City. With only one of the girls being offered a place in their academy, the offer was turned down and twins stuck together on their footballing journey.

Currently they are continuing to play for Handsworth, but have also recently had successful trials for Sheffield Schools and Barnsley Emerging Talent Centre which will no doubt ensure the girls continue their upwards trajectory in becoming a future Lioness.

A story that simply started with a love and passion for the game has allowed the girls freedom to enjoy the game and to nurture their talents.

Accelerating the progress of Women and Girls in Football

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we look at how the network of EFL Club Community Organisations aim to give women in football and sport equal opportunities to succeed, and accelerate their progress in their chosen pathway.

With recognition that women were under-represented across the Football and Sport’s Coaching degree courses that are run at over 40 Clubs in partnership with the University of South Wales, the Female Development programme was established in the academic year of 2021-22 to ensure all women on the course were offered a tailored programme of opportunities to expand their knowledge and confidence with other women from other Clubs.

By ensuring an inclusive environment, with opportunities to network and hear from like-minded professionals in the sport, the programme ensures that the students on the degree course are provided with the opportunity to upskill and build confidence.

Throughout the year they have access to a variety of events that feature female professionals from a variety of roles within sport. This helps give students the confidence to seek out all the opportunities that are available to them.

Speakers to date have included senior members of the EFL Trust, who have shared their experiences of working in sport, from working off the field, to being front and centre on it. They have also heard from Daisy Croker who referees on the FA Women’s National League and the U21s Professional Game Academy League and has been involved in refereeing for the last 7 years, working her way through the ranks.

With coaching being a huge element of the degree courses, Jayne Jackson, EFL Trust’s Wildcats Project Manager provided the girls with best practices and advice on getting involved with their local Club Community Organisations and the Wildcats programme. As a result of this, some of the students have begun volunteering at their local Wildcats sessions.

From Grassroots football to the professional game, Charlotte Healy, Manchester United Women’s Assistant Coach will be a guest speaker next month as she discusses her journey and progression her from role as a community coach at Derby County Community Trust to the pinnacle of English football in the Women’s Super League.

With the opportunity to grow, develop and establish themselves in the industry, it is no wonder the Female Development programme has become a pivotal part in the increasing number of female students on the USW degree courses. With just 12 students in its first year, last year 36 students were engaged in the programme.

Whilst the University of South Wales degree programme creates opportunity for women to coach the game, our CCOs also offer a pathway for Girls to play the game. This is from the very first kick of a ball with Wildcats to the Talent Inclusion programme which helps girls who dream of representing England one day.

The Wildcats programme, in run partnership with the FA, is aimed at young girls aged 5-11 promotes a non-competitive, fun environment for all from those wanting to try football for the first time to girls who just want to play the game with girls the same age as them. This not only promotes fundamental skills required on the pitch but also develops life skills off it from effective communication to the ability to problem solve as part of a wider team.

Whilst only a small number of girls will go on to receive full senior caps at International level, our Talent Inclusion programme, also run in partnership with the FA, ensures every girl has equal chance to do so, regardless of their background.

The Talent Inclusion programme ensures that through existing community activities, participants with potential can be identified and referred to the FA England Women’s Talent Pathway. The EFL Trust’s CCOs work in some of the most deprived communities in England, where individuals and families experience challenges when trying to participate in sport and other activities. Women’s football has become a significant part of CCO delivery and engagement has hit an all-time high, given this, there is a considerable opportunity for potential to be identified and developed in the right environment. In particular, research from The FA has indicated that girls from low-socio-economic urban areas are not progressing into the talent system which is a lost opportunity for both young girls and the England team.

The Talent Inclusion programme is specifically run by over 60 EFL Club Community Organisations, who engage with young girls from low social economic communities and underrepresented groups, and look to refer talented players who, for whatever reason, may not be able to access traditional talent pathways.

It is paramount to the future of England women’s football that the pathway is a system for all. The EFL Trust and The FA are committed to working collaboratively to be creative and inventive to achieve this goal together.

Charlotte Hill leaves the EFL Trust Board after nine successful years

The EFL Trust Board today extend sincere thanks to Charlotte Hill, OBE, as her time as an EFL Trust Board member comes to an end. Charlotte leaves the Board as she has reached the maximum possible 9 years of serving as an Independent Trustee. 

Charlotte first became known to the EFL Trust when she was CEO of UK Youth, a network organisation representing the youth sector in the UK. UK Youth and the EFL Trust had many shared plans and ambitions, and Charlotte was very well respected across the sector, having received the Rising CEO Star award from the Charity Times in 2012.

At that time, the EFL Trust Board lacked diversity in knowledge and expertise in wider charity areas, such as youth engagement. By 2014 Charlotte had moved on to head up Step up to Serve, a volunteering campaign back by the then Prince Charles and all the major political parties.  The EFL Trust were delighted that at this point, Charlotte also agreed to join the Board and bring her wealth of sector expertise and knowledge to the organisation.

Now CEO of the fantastic Felix Project in London, the advice and guidance Charlotte has provided to the EFL Trust over the last nine years has been invaluable. As well as her industry knowledge, Charlotte enthusiastically drove a governance review process and took on the role of Senior Independent Trustee. The EFL Trust subsequently achieved the highest level of compliance with the Sport England Code of Governance which has in turn led to a myriad of opportunities to expand the work and success of the charity and its network of club community organisations.

As Charlotte departs from the Board, the role of Senior Independent will pass to Uma Cresswell, who joined the Board in November 2021, and has become a committed and integral member of the team. The work of charity Trustees often goes unnoticed, but the impact that Charlotte has had during her long association with the EFL Trust is extraordinary. Charlotte’s knowledge, enthusiasm, positivity, and commitment has been a huge factor in the success of the EFL Trust and we all wish her the very best in her future career and similar success to incoming Board members.