Reflection from Football in the Community

Working in the Football in the Community arena you don’t see many opportunities to present research to totally relevant audiences and specific FitC events. I have attended a range of conferences from BASES, ECSS, BHFNC and EASM to name a few, however this event was really interesting – the Football and its Communities symposium.

The event was hosted by Manchester Met Uni and its purpose was to explore:

The apparent globalisation and commercialisation of football has led to much criticism from both academic and media commentators that it is no longer the People’s Game. The changing structures of ownership within top level football are characterised by the increase of international financial investors keen to associate themselves and their businesses with globally recognised club brands, personified by teams such as Manchester United and Real Madrid. That said, most football clubs continue to be firmly embedded within local contexts and often within close geographical proximity to traditional fan bases. Despite commercialisation, even the biggest football clubs remain committed to local community development, contributing huge social value in otherwise deprived neighbourhoods and cities.

The event keynote was Richard Giullianotti,who presented a thoughtful football and its communities presentation. We (Kathryn Dunn and I) followed shortly after presenting on our experiences of working within an English Premier League Football Clubs community programme – Everton in the Community:

Football as vehicle for social change: reflections from the field

Please take a look at the presentation below:

The presentations covers a number of health promotion and beahviour change projects. The conclusions are that FitC schemes coaches are good people who provide a fun services. However a shift in skill base is required in order to meet the demands of new social agendas (i.e., obesity for example). A ‘new age’ practitioner is needed to attend to the more recent and more complex social projects – whom possess a broader skill base Evident that psychosocial/lifestyle behaviour change is present across programmes, as opposed to major physiological health changes.
Discussion following the presentation with applied practitioners and managers from FitC (in the audience – making this a brilliant event for people researching in this area and something we were made up to see) confirmed that the English Premier League had called clubs representatives together to discuss the shifting skill base required for coaches the previous week. This highlighted the problems of trying to create a ‘super coach‘.
The applied FitC people in the audience also highlighted “How can we do this – create a ‘super coach’ with the short term (and small amounts of) funding”. With this we empathised totally. Again bringing us back to the point that more support is needed for FitC in helping them attend strategically and coherently to social agendas.
Simply, throwing £30K per 3 years is not enough to tackle cultures associated with obesity (i.e., inactivity, poor diet). If we want to really tackle such issues some ‘real’ support is needed.

The advice I can give from my experience is that in the short term FitC schemes should:

– build partnerships to develop research skills (to gauge the impact of their projects and begin to improve effectiveness),

– provide relevant career professional development for practitioners and coaches alike (something I was pleased to see at DCitC & BACT) and;

– build bespoke programmes to suit participants with appropriately skilled practitioners (so keep it focused on clear measurable outcomes.

Finally, I feel that within FitC schemes the foundations are in place for greater success! Its now time for us (and associated organisations, companies, bodies) to act.

Lets get with them, behind them and support them to capitalise on the full potential football offers as a vehicle for social change.

Please as always use the comments box below to tell me your opinions and your take on the issues I discuss. All are welcomed and appreciated to help add to the discourse on FitC.

Dan is a Lecturer in Physical Activity, Health and Management at the University of Derby who is involved in research in Football in the Community schemes across the English Premier League and English Football League, alongside a number of sport for social change projects.


14 thoughts on “Reflection from Football in the Community

  1. Hi Dan,

    This is interesting stuff. I run a business called Sport Business Network and it has two aims – the first is obvious which is to be a business networking group but the second,and more powerful aim, is to unite business people with community sports providers and to tell the story of the amazing work that organisations like Everton in the Community does.

    My eyes were opened to this world by the Charlton Athlectic Trust a few years ago and we sensed there was a business opportunity by aligning community sport (initially football but now every sport) with the CSR needs fo corporates and SMEs. I am quite evangelical about the power of sport to change lives and, thankfully, lots of businesses are too.
    If you are ever down in London it would be good to hook up. My email address is

    Best regards
    Roger McKerlie

    • Thanks for your message Roger and for joining The Community Football Group on Linkedin – hopefully we have some interesting and thoughtful conversations.
      The SBN look really interesting and will drop you an email next time I am around your way. If you happen to venture as far away as the midlands or North West please let me know

  2. Hi Dan,

    Great write up and the conference sounded great, only hoped us Northern and ower league clubs could have been invited to share. In our own scheme we have moved further away from ‘Super coaches’ and closer into qualified professions (e.g teachers & health professionals) that still hold the personalble and down to earth manner the coaches and foundation staff are known for.

    Est in 1986, we are still trying to get the word out there as to what we do and the way we have expanded over recent years.

    Jenna Scully
    Education Manager @ Doncaster Rovers FC

  3. Hi Jenna,
    Thanks for your comments they are really appreciated. Its such a positive step for FitC schemes to begin to evolve who they recruit. A cornerstone of the work will remain delivery, coaching, behaviour change of some sort, so I am eager to help clubs support their staff continual development for specific roles. This is something I think i is being undertaken at various degrees, but could be given extra attention.
    The event was quite academic focused, which could have more of an applied perspective too. I would love to see an event bring the clubs together to showcase research and best practice ideas in the pursuit of knowledge transfer and helping one another…maybe next year!
    Please join us on linkedin at The Community Football Group – your thoughts would be greatly welcomed.

    • Thanks Dan- have just joined up!

      Have just contacted a local university to see if we can link third year students to carry out their placements and research modules- hoping we can link an opportunity for the students whilst getting us the research and outcomes we need to document the impact we know we have.

      • Great news that you have joined!

        That’s fantastic that you have contacted the local University. Working with final year students can really help projects. If you need anything do not hesitate to ask with regards to advice on this sort of stuff!


      • Jenna,
        I have just seen these messages and I cannot work out whether I have replied (despite this being 2012!!), either way – I hope all is well and you have developed some decent research links. Let me know if I can help in anyway and speak soon,

  4. Hi Dan,

    Once again a very interesting read, I would recomend to all community schemes to create a strong partnership with their local university around aspects such as staff CPD and research/ monitoring and evaluation just like us and Derby have with yourselves.

    There is no more an ideal time than now for Community Schemes as we can have a huge role to play in creating the ‘Olympic legacy’ no other organisations can inspire young people and provide that infra structure the way that a football club can.

    Look forward to creating an even stronger partnership over the next academic year and beyond.

    Andy Taylor
    Burton Albion Community Trust

    • Thanks Andy – appreciate that.

      Couldn’t agree more. Got to create effective partnership for better practice and outcome all round.

      Looking forward to a great year and beyond!

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