Your club and its community

James Mathie, Manager of the Supporters Direct Club Development team, is encouraging football clubs to take advantage of a new funding initiative for community enterprises.

At SD Club Development we recently spent an interesting morning being introduced to a new fund called Power to Change, which will enable 150 million of Big Lottery money to be directed towards community enterprises. The fund is due to be up and running by early 2015, and the aim is to support local communities working together to make a difference where they live.

According to the fund’s website, “community enterprises provide sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing social and economic issues of our time, and particularly benefit people most in need. We want to help more people respond to local need and opportunity, and change the places in which they live for the better.”

A couple of things really struck me. First, can there be a better “community enterprise” than a football club? And second, are football clubs ready to take advantage of a fund seemingly designed for them? My answers, for what it’s worth, are “No” and “Only some”.  That second answer may sound a bit negative. I don’t think it’s necessarily a reflection of how our clubs are run; at present looking for funding feels a bit like making a cocktail and picking up each ingredient from a different bar. But we need to get real: funders like the Big Lottery are under pressure to deliver something for their money.

Funders will want to see that their money is going to something sustainable, and they will also want to see a clear benefit to the community. With local authority budgets being reduced, and sport often one of the easiest areas in which to make cuts, there is a real opportunity for clubs to get organised and take over the ownership, management and delivery of sporting facilities and services. The FA agrees, and recently we’ve seen them suggesting this as a way forward.

Yes, it’s going to require some planning and careful thought, but if a football club gets it right they could end up doing a better job than any local authority ever would. The community will appreciate it and the benefits will follow.  For more information about Supporters Direct Club Development, see www.clubdevelopment.coop

 Dons Trust Board chairman Matthew Breach adds a few words about how this type of funding can help us continue to thrive.

While James’s article is targeted more at supporters of clubs that are not already in community ownership, it is extremely helpful to us that Supporters Direct continue to work to identify sources of advice, support and finance.

As we progress with our plans to build a new stadium in Wimbledon, we have already put in place the necessary groundwork to launch a Community Share scheme – a great way to raise funding for such projects – with significant help from SD. James also highlights another possible source of funding for improving both our club’s facilities and those available to the local community. A great example of what could be facilitated by Big Lottery funding is the creation of a full-sized artificial pitch that the club can use as a training facility, and local amateur and youth sides can use on evenings and weekends.

We need to be at the heart of our community to achieve our goals, and I thank SD on behalf of us all for their efforts to help us get ever closer to home and ever higher up the league.

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