Altrincham’s footballing fortunes have been on the up and up over the last few seasons, and it is a trend that is very much mirrored by the club’s community section.
While Phil Parkinson’s team regularly attract healthy gates of well over 1,000 through the turnstiles at The J.Davidson Stadium, the numbers benefitting from our community set-up’s sterling efforts are also well into four figures on a weekly basis.
It has been one of the success stories of recent times, since the Community Sports Hall was opened five years ago, but, like any enterprise, it has not been immune from the effects of Covid-19.
The community section’s wide variety of services and activities ranges from hosting adult participants to visiting local schools and attracts a customer base that embraces all ages, from toddlers to grown-ups, as well as parents and carers young and old.
Naturally enough, in this prolonged period of uncertainty, both the club and the community section have received requests for information about current and future community activities.
It was felt, therefore, that this would be an opportune moment to provide an update, firstly to give everyone an idea of what the community side of the club does under normal circumstances, but also how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the business.
We caught up with one of the Community Co Directors to find out a bit more….
AFC Community Company Q&A
What is the scope of activities supported by the Community Company?
Prior to the current difficulties everyone is experiencing, we were very busy, although the number of activities vary with school term times. When schools are open, we coach around 800 children each week. We also coach children in non-school related sessions, approximately 200 each week.
Add on around 150 attendees for various classes in the Community Sports Hall, and 30 who enjoy activities for people with disabilities, and we are quite busy. We also hold a variety of ‘events’ in the CSH, including birthday parties for children and adults, dinners, business gatherings, etc.
How is the lockdown affecting the Community Company?
We have effectively paused trading for the time being. We have, however, been able to provide free use of the CSH to the NHS (with assistance from volunteers).
What is the impact on staff?
All of the Community Company’s staff are furloughed, although we do hope to be able to start some planning work shortly, when some staff may restart work
What is the effect on the Community Company’s finances?
At present, we have no regular income, as there are no classes in the CSH, no coaching in schools and no other events taking place. The loss of events is damaging to the finances of the Community Company, but it clearly affects the Football Club to a much greater degree.
We do, however, still have ongoing financial commitments that we have to fulfill.
The Community Company does have cash reserves, but some of these are classed as reserved funding, because the money has been received from grants and conditional payments, so has to be used for specific activities.
We have applied for a Covid-19-related grant that will hopefully help. We are also hoping to launch a fundraiser, supported by Barclays Bank, that should raise some funds to further reduce our income drop.
Of course, as a charity, we are always grateful for any donations but particularly so at times such as these. Equally, we would be happy to chat to anyone who would like to sponsor one of our activities, or one of our coaches. Please get in touch by emailing [email protected] if you would like to discuss options.
What funding do the Community Company normally receive to support community activities?
We receive funding from the Premier League to enable us to provide support for schools via the Premier League Primary Stars scheme. We are very proud to be one of only five clubs at our level that are allowed to participate in the scheme.
We also receive funding annually via the National League Trust (supported by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association) for a range of projects that we wish to support locally. In the year ending 28th February 2020, we were supported by them in efforts to increase participation in football at all ages, irrespective of gender, race, religion, including:
· Mini Kickers (2-6),
· Junior Kickers from age six until able to join AFC Juniors,
· Extra curricular coaching in primary schools,
· Coaching 7-13 year olds at the Broomwood Community Centre,
· Trafford Veterans Walking Football,
· And our own Walking Football sessions.
We are extremely grateful to the football authorities for this support. The funding is invaluable as it enables us to establish these sporting activities, and, when they are sustainable, we can focus on new projects.
So, presumably, funding has ceased at present?
No, we actually received funding for the six months from March 1st, just before we went into lockdown. This is the ‘reserved funding’ mentioned earlier.
The activities covered by this funding are scheduled for the next 12 months and will relate to girls and women, these are mainly but not exclusively football-related, including:
· Coaching for girls in the 5-11 age range,
· Improving the transition to open-age women’s football,
· Walking Football sessions for women,
Hopefully these will be able to restart in the not-too-distant future.
So what is the future for the Community Company?
We feel that the long-term future is extremely positive. The relationship between the Community Company and the Football Club Board is excellent, and we believe that we will work together to improve the prospects for both organisations as well as overcoming the present difficulties presented by the lockdown.
The short-term future, however, is totally dependent on the Government instructions we receive regarding the lockdown. We will continually review each of our projects to assess when it is totally safe to restart them, and, as necessary, adapt each of the activities in the most appropriate way at the time.
Some activities will clearly be possible earlier than others. For example, we may be able to provide some activities for children over the next 2-3 months, but events in the CSH may not be possible this year.
As with all businesses, we will ensure that we adapt to the circumstances, and we will endeavour to publicise developments as and when they happen.