THINGS may not always have gone to plan on the pitch for Wigan Athletic in 2014, but for its Community Trust it was an absolute stormer!
Not only has the charity been crowned the best in the region but has also seen its work produce outstanding results by working with local children and adults.
There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to the role of the Trust; it isn’t just about coaching children’s football after school or running coaching courses.
It also provides a vital tool to help with the education and health of the town’s young people, as well as helping adults too.
Head of Community Tom Flower beams with pride as he discusses the last 12 months and with excitement when describing what is to come in 2015.
Now an integral part of the day to day business of Wigan Athletic, the Trust is one of the fastest growing football community organisations in country, increasing its income by 130 per cent since 2012 and extending its reach into 75 per cent of all Wigan schools.
“It’s been a fantastic year for the Community Trust,” said Tom.
“It’s seen us expand our work across Wigan, since January we’ve worked with almost 9,000 people delivering projects based around football, sport, health, education and community cohesion.
“That’s culminated in us winning the community club of the year award for the North West which was nice to be acknowledged by the PFA, that was fantastic.”
But what exactly does the Wigan Athletic Community Trust do and how does it give the Wigan public something much more than sport?
“Using the brand of the football club we run programmes in primary schools around school sport, helping schools develop their PE curriculum,” explained Tom.
“We’ve worked in 60 to 70 primary schools over the last 12 months, giving them 25 hours’ free sports coaching.
“We don’t just deliver sport, we run programmes around literacy and rewarding the sessions with a sports activity.
“In terms of secondary schools we’ve done a lot of work around business and enterprise. We run programmes for years nine and 10 where we bring them to the stadium and they think they’re just going to get a tour but we talk to them about all different aspects of the club; advertising and marketing.
“They might get to meet people at the club like the chief executive, who gives a question and answer session and they all get a business qualification out of it.
“Outside of schools we do a lot of work in the evenings putting on positive activities for young children.”
The Trust also runs a Kicks programme which operates for three nights a week, 48 weeks of the year in six areas across the borough giving young people between 12 and 19 something constructive to do.
As well as football they’ll do volunteering with the Trust, gain qualifications and play in tournaments against other clubs.
“We’re about to introduce a project called the 12th Man which is funded by the big lottery fund,” added Tom.
“That will involve talking to young people about health issues as well.
“Once we’ve got them engaged in sport it’s a good opportunity for our staff to talk to them about drinking and smoking.
“We’ve got a good partnership with ProCo North West which enables us to run apprenticeships for unemployed young people.
“They can also attend training courses where they get sports qualifications. That’s great because we’re able to help reduce young people in NEET.
“For young people involved in project such as Kicks it can be a pathway into employment.
We take on five apprentices a year and five of them have just started a sports coaching degree with the University of South Wales and three of those lads were involved in Kicks so we’ve had them from 14. To see them go all the way up to potentially being a future coach for us is fantastic.”
While footballing excellence isn’t the top of the Trust’s agenda, it’s something their coaches are able to enhance.
“We did a North West competition at the Youth Zone in September and the chairman and then-manager came down,” said Tom.
“A 15-year-old lad who had never played organised football before was spotted by the club and is now training with the academy with the possibility of becoming a scholar.”
Ouside of young people the Trust also runs a successful health programme for men called Fit Fans.
Men over the age of 25 will take part in a 12-week programme thinking they’re going to play football with their mates, which they will do, but the coaches will also deliver a number of health workshops, helping them to lose weight.
Since the programme started a couple of years ago 280 men have gone through it with 75 per cent continuing to do sport.
The Trust now has its own home in the Montrose Skills Hub on Montrose Avenue which Tom says has helped with its growth.
“Moving away from the training ground to be based here with the support of the club has been fantastic,” he said.
“The chief executive has been very supportive, the chair of the trustees is Philip Williams who is the vice-chair of the football club.
“That support goes right across the club, it’s not just about our staff going out there.
“We get great support from the players, we take local schools into the training ground once a week.
“Pretty much once a week players will also be coming with us visiting schools and doing activities.
“We are charity and in the last two-and-a-half years we’ve doubled in size.
“That’s thanks to the football club but also other organisations such as the Premier League, Sport England anfd also locally with Wigan Council and ProCo.”