Over the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of working in a community football club with Andy Taylor and his team at Burton Albion Football Club and their Community Trust. During this time we have undertaken a collaborative evaluation on their health improvement work with older adults, which we are now in a position to share.

Read the independent Golden Goal executive summary here.

Burton Albion FC are not in the ‘Premier League’ of the football pyramid; they are in 5th position of the SkyBet League 2 division with high hopes of promotion.  Like their promotion aspirations, I have come to find Burton Albion Community Trust, as a place aspiring to and delivering at higher level of community engagement and delivery. More importantly, there is a genuine desire to work with, engage and empower the local community.

Building on the experience of others including Extra Time and the Fit Fans project, we worked in collaboration to create a bespoke evaluation package for Burton alongside staff development to support the collection of the evaluation data. This capacity building approach has certainly supported successful data collection and provides a sustainable model for cost effective evaluations in football clubs (its all about helping others!). The Golden Goal project has evolved from a £10K lottery funded programme to emerge as a sustainable activity for over 50 local people each week; engaging in a range of physical and social activities. The project now offers a number of sessions each week central to the Pirelli Stadium (the home of Burton Albion Community Trust), however moving forward the trust are working with partners to develop outreach programmes to target those most hard to reach.

Read about the Golden Goal project here.

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In a time where resources are stretched and funding limited, many are all are calling for (BUT not demanding) evaluation of community engagement activity delivered by football clubs on the health improvement agenda. Despite this, how long will it be before the commissioning relationship between football clubs and funding bodies change and which football clubs will be ready? Burton Albion Community Trust are making a statement to their stakeholders (staff, fans, local community, commissioners and other clubs) that they are willing to invest in evaluation; they are moving on beyond glossy brochures filled with participation figures; they want to know what does and doesn’t work; and that they are committed to improve the year-on-year effectiveness and impact of their work.

…how long will it be before the commissioning relationship between football clubs and funding bodies change and which football clubs will be ready?

This work currently builds upon the work of undertaken by a number of academics with a real applied focus and desire to make a difference in community football, most notably has been the work undertaken across the English Premier League (read more about this report here).

image (3)The relationship we now have with Burton Albion Community Trust is long standing one and has a bright future. We have been fortunate to have hosted The Schools and Community Football Conference and have seen the successful launch of their strategy (found here). However, we have now seen some quality tangible impacts.

The impact of this work can be seen on a number of levels:

  • Burton Albion Community Trust has a new partnership with local health commissioners to deliver targeted work on health improvement across Staffordshire
  • The health improvement projects delivered by Burton Albion Community Trust will be more effective as a result of this evaluation
  • Burton Albion Community Trust staff have the capacity to collect evaluation data
  • An evaluation package now exists to build capacity for football staff within a sustainable and cost effective model for evaluations of health improvement projects in football.

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