Town Launch New Community Trust
Thursday, 12th Sep 2019 17:30
Boss Paul Lambert and general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill were joined by Flynn Downes and Luke Woolfenden for the official relaunch of the Community Trust at Britannia Primary School in Ipswich this afternoon.
Downes and Woolfenden refereed five-a-side games between youngsters, who were also coached by Community Trust staff.
The project will be led by former Peterborough academy player Jason Curtis, while Mike Phillips is the schools development manager, Harry Watts the community engagement co-ordinator and Alex Brett the football development manager.
“The Ipswich Town Community Trust basically is an arm or a pillar of the club that I feel is really important to be running parallel with the football club,” O’Neill said explaining the aim of the project.
“The idea behind it is to work as a charity-based organisation which works alongside the football club in all aspects in the county of Suffolk, looking at charity work, looking at organisational work, we’ll concentrate in and around the football aspects and look at government and local initiatives to try and help the local people.
“Really being at the heart of the community is something that the club has always been a part of, but maybe in recent years hasn’t been as much of a focus but now since we looked at the club at Christmas time, it’s a massive focus for us to try and get back into the community.
“That’s vitally important, you can see the kids here today, you know what it’s about for them and it’s important for the football club to be engaged with the community.”
The club severed links with the Ipswich Town Charitable Trust - which had previously been known as the Community Trust - in November 2013 with that organisation continuing to exist as a separate organisation under the name Inspire Suffolk with former Blues director of communications Terry Baxter its chief executive.
Why the decision to relaunch the Community Trust now? “When we were evaluating things at Christmas - where were making progress and where we could do things better - I think this is a big area where we can make improvements.
“There’s no secret about it, obviously there’s not as many younger people coming to the games these days and to look at how we can engage those younger people, such as in schools and local clubs and organisations, for them to be feel part of the community and the football club is really important to us.
“It’s addressing something I think we needed to make some improvements on. But it’s not just for now, it’s for the next five or 10 years, it’s about being out there and the young kids going and wanting their first Ipswich Town shirt and wanting to come to a game and being a part of the club.”
Regarding the split between Town and the previous trust, O’Neill added: “Personally I wasn’t involved in that aspect of the club when it was running but I think you look at the bigger picture. For whatever reasons, at the time the decision was made to go in a different direction.
“I think it’s been recognised now through our own internal audit process that it’s a really important part of the club, so for me to help drive that with some senior people at the club, it’s been really beneficial.
“I don’t think it’s something that will change in the next few weeks or months, it will be something that will take a lot of time and hard work but it will definitely reap rewards for the club and the community in the local area over the next few years.”
He says manager Paul Lambert and the players are on board: “Very much so. It was part of the plan when we sat down at Christmas with [owner] Marcus [Evans], looking at the four corners of the club, the first team, the academy, the business and the community.
“And on the community aspect of it we were doing some really good things that were probably going unnoticed with one or two people and we weren’t really aligned in how we were doing that but now we’re all aligned and it’s important that the manager, the players, the senior staff and other people at the football club are all on board with it.”
O’Neill, a one-time teacher and Ipswich boy, says it’s a project which means a lot to him: “Very much so, coming back to a school [for the launch], which I’m obviously passionate about.
“All the kids in the local area, male, female, the teachers in and around the Suffolk schools, for us to be in and around and to be part of that, using the football club’s badge to help deliver some key initiatives around education and health, is really important for lots of people. So, it is quite close to me, to be fair.”
He recalls when he was working as a teacher not too many pupils were wearing Town shirts, which he believes is something which is changing.
“I think there was a lack of Ipswich Town identity in the town,” he reflected. “I only said to Paul recently that when I walked through Christchurch Park in the summer I did see quite a lot of Ipswich Town shirts and it was a surprise to me. I walk through that park quite a lot and I hadn’t seen as many, it had seemed to be other clubs’ colours.
“Relaying that back to key people at the football club who can all be part of that process, it is important to engage the younger supporters of the club, for them to feel part of it and come to games and want to be part of Ipswich Town Football Club is huge.”
He says it’s a big plus having the first-team manager is behind the project: “I think it always helps with that process when you’ve got the support of the first-team manager. Going back to what I said about the four key pillars. Obviously Paul manages the first team so to have him on board as part of that process is really important.
“And the players, players giving up their time to do an event and work with local charities, teams, schools, all of those things are really important, so we’ve all got to be singing off the same hymn sheet.
“But you never know, in the future, five, 10, 15 years’ time if I’m not lucky enough to still be at the football club, other people will be and the club will still be here and it’s important to make sure that the foundations are put in place so the fans of the future, the players of the future are still coming through the football club.”
In terms of cash, like the previous Community Trust, it will be responsible for much of its own funding.
“A lot of that is self-raised, so they have to do a lot of work for themselves to try and raise money for the trust, like any other charity does,” he added.
“We are very lucky that we get support through the EFL and the Premier League, so there are pots of money that we can apply for if we are in line with the initiatives.
“Premier Stars is a good example, we can go and apply for a pot of money through the Premier League that can help deliver some of these aspects in and around schools and help with the initiatives that they might run parallel with.
“It’s funded separately [from the club] but what I think what’s important to recognise is that the objectives are running parallel with the club.
“So, the funding aspect, yes, they’ve got to raise money and we’ve got to work, but the club will help do that.
“Hopefully with the fanbase and some of the events that we put on, they will be important to raise funds for that. But yes, it is separate to the club.”
Lambert believes the relaunch is very significant and is critical of the split with the previous trust.
“I tell you what, it’s going to be one of the most important decisions Marcus has made, without a doubt,” he said.
“The club should never have lost it, whoever made the decision to stop it, I think it was appalling in the first place because you can’t lose a generation of kids. I don’t get it and I still don’t get it why [the decision] was made for reasons which are unbeknown.
“You cannot have a county as big as this and not have Ipswich supporters or jerseys or kids coming and watching games, that was never healthy.
“And that’s one of the things I recognised when I came in was that the football club has to get a generation back because long after I’m away from it where does the support come from? It has to come the Trust and Jason and his team I think when they get their feet under the table, it’ll be one of the greatest decisions made.”
He says he and the players will be involved: “We have to, we’re managing the football club, the staff at club, the players at the club, you get there and you make sure the kids come to these games, you need to show you can try and get kids coming through to the academy and maybe being a household name in years to come.
“That’s secret of it, to get them in playing football, to get them through. It doesn’t matter whether it’s girls or the guys, we have to get kids through, we have to get kids in the stadium.
“And I think the way the club is going at the minute, I see more and more blue jerseys around the town, which is great and I think the more this snowballs, this will become unstoppable.”
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