The Aviva Stadium was the setting for the official launch of the new EU funded ‘More than a Club’ initiative to coincide with the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying match against Moldova.
Legendary Irish defender, Richard Dunne was on hand to lend his support to the initiative which will see the FAI and Vi-Ability cooperate with local professional football clubs in Ireland and Wales and assist them to develop social enterprise based Club in the Community schemes or Football Enterprises to address under-served social needs within disadvantaged communities.
‘More than a Club’ is a joint project initiative between the Football Association of Ireland and a vibrant young Welsh social enterprise called Vi-Ability and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme 2014-2020.
The project will empower the clubs to recognise and utilise the powerful attraction of football and the value of their club brand locally in order to develop key strategic partnerships with statutory agencies and community groups to deliver important social programmes. In the process, it is expected that clubs will evolve as more valuable and relevant community entities becoming more relevant to more people in their communities. FAI Project Manager, Derek O’Neill said:
“The FAI and Vi-Ability believe that engaging community in a more inclusive way can positively affect a football club’s prospects of sustainability. Participating in innovative community partnerships can facilitate this. We are delighted to have secured this funding from the Ireland Wales programme to support clubs in Ireland and Wales to further develop their engagement with community stakeholders. We hope the model that will be developed in cooperation with Bohemian FC and Cork City FC and counterparts in Wales can act as flagship models which other clubs can look to emulate”.
The programmes to be delivered by the newly supported social enterprises will have a sharp social focus and will leverage the power of football to engage people. For example, children who may be struggling in school can avail of football themed literacy and numeracy supports while other programmes within the project with a health and well-being focus will provide valuable supports for older people.
The project will start immediately and the FAI and Vi-Ability will recruit two full time Football Enterprise Coordinators in each club for an 18-month period. The Project Management team will also provide guidance and advice on how to develop the Football Enterprise schemes and the social programmes to be delivered. This schemes developed in Ireland with Bohemian FC and Cork City FC will also be mirrored in Wales where two local professional clubs will also develop social enterprise based community schemes with coordinators in both regions exchanging valuable information and learnings to ensure the project is a sustainable success story.