The Football Association of Ireland has launched a new initiative, More Than A Club, that aims to help facilitate SSE Airtricity League clubs in further developing links within their local communities.
The project, which is jointly run with the Welsh social enterprise Vi-Ability and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, will see Bohemian FC and Cork City develop social enterprise based Club in the Community schemes.
Both Bohemians and Cork were amongst 11 SSE Airtricity League clubs who presented proposals to partake in the scheme. The project will empower the clubs to recognise and utilise football and its value to connect with social programmes within the community. It is expected that the clubs will evolve as more valuable and relevant community entities as part of this project with dedicated resources assigned to both clubs.
FAI Project Manager Derek O’Neill said: “The FAI believes that engaging with the community in a more inclusive way can positively affect a football club’s prospects of sustainability. Participating in innovative community partnerships can facilitate this.
“The FAI is delighted to have secured this EU funding, which will be used full to support the two clubs to develop their community remit.”
FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin said: “The Consultation Process Report recognised that along with sporting and business interests, community engagement was another essential development pillar of successful and sustainable football clubs. The club’s five-year strategic plans have shown a strong emphasis on community engagement.
“This community focus can serve to attract new club stakeholders with more people, businesses and agencies becoming advocates of the club and admirers of the programmes which they can deliver. The clubs can become more than just football teams and be more relevant to more people within their communities.”
The project will start immediately and the FAI will make funding available to recruit two full-time Football Enterprise Cooridnators in each club for an 18-month period. The FAI will also provide guidance from the project management team on how to develop the Football Enterprise scheme and the social programmes.
Chris Brian of Bohemian FC said: “Bohemians FC are delighted to participate in the project and will benefit from having three employees, two full-time and one part-time, working exclusively in the community on behalf of the Bohemian Football Club. It will allow us to significantly expand the excellent community work we are already doing in our catchment area.
Shane O’Connor of Cork City said: “We’re delighted to be included in the project to allow us to continue to improve on the good work in the community that FORAS and Cork City have been involved in over the past number of the years. We’re very proud at how our trustees and volunteers continue to give their time and skills so selflessly and it’s fantastic that those efforts are being recognised by the FAI and the European Regional Development Fund.”