The National League Trust is a partnership between the National League, Premier League, and the Professional Footballers’ Association. The Premier League and the PFA have committed to support the Trust until 2019. They will each contribute £1. 2m over this period. This allows the Trust to help National League member clubs to develop their community activities.
The Wealdstone FC Foundation Trust, established in June 2015, has made great strides in taking the club into the local community by linking up with the Middlesex FA, the London Borough of Hillingdon, local community groups and the enormously successful Wealdstone Juniors in order to provide activities for both young and old.
Details of what has been achieved and what is in the pipe-line are set-out below.
One thing promotion to the National League has allowed the club to expand is its involvement in the local community. Being a “community club” is a phrase we all see banded about regularly. You only have to pick up a copy of the Non-League Paper every Sunday to see that. Sometimes the phrase has a ring of truth, a good example being the fantastic success of Dulwich Hamlet to see how embedding a club in the community can bear fruit. That famous old club has caught the imagination of large numbers of like-minded, often young people, based around a loose “political” ideology and craft beers brewed locally – a sort of non-league football “Momentum”, but with far greater charm and arguably more direction.
The Wealdstone tradition is slightly different. When located in Harrow the club was deeply embedded in the psyche and reality of the local population’s lives; and it was all based on football, red in tooth and claw. During the nomadic years we maintained a core following and, now based in Ruislip, have built up a new level of support, all predicated on the passion and edginess the club engenders. Similarly to Dulwich Hamlet, we have a unique “product” to sell, albeit a somewhat different one to our South London friends. Membership of The National League has allowed us to form a Trust and apply for funding from the League’s Community Trust with the aim of reaching further into the local community than has been the case for many years.
Enlightened self-interest is the basis of Trust operations. By sponsoring and organising activities for the people of Hillingdon and Harrow, benefits to the local community will be in place and, with Wealdstone being associated with the activities, the club’s name will become even more up front, recognised and established locally.
The Trust has organised two activities and, in so doing, has reached out to young and old alike. Walking Football for the over-50s has proved to be enormously popular at several locations and at different times – Hillingdon Leisure Centre, The Botwell Green Leisure Centre, Hayes, St Helens College, Northwood and the Harefield Academy. Walking football teams have been entered for national and local tournaments, while the activity at Botwell Green has attracted both male and female participants and members of the Hillingdon Stroke Association.
It was a sobering thought that those who attended the session from The Association included those who had suffered strokes while in their 30s. Impressively, the Trust has delivered 112 walking football sessions in the last year, 99 of which have been led by Trust Chairman, Nick Symmons.
The activity aimed at the youngsters is Stones Soccer in Schools. It is a maths and football related course for primary school year 3 children that links numeracy maths lessons to activity sessions run by Wealdstone Football Club FA Qualified coaches. The aim is to create an add-on teaching mechanism that, by linking football based activity sessions to the application of mathematics, might help enthuse young schoolchildren sufficiently to assist them in absorbing the basics of maths in an enjoyable setting. It involves 45 minute football skills/coaching sessions being complimented by 45 minutes of football themed numeracy lessons.
The coaches provided by The Trust representing Wealdstone FC for the football skills element have been Jade Dempster, Director of sporting Chance Academy Ltd, and Paul Hughes, joint manager of Kings Langley FC. Jade is a vastly experienced coach and player in women’s football having represented, amongst others, QPR, Chelsea, Millwall and teams in the USA. Paul had a playing career at Chelsea and Luton Town before going into coaching and most recently has enjoyed three straight promotions as joint manager of Kings Langley FC.
Teams have been entered into the Walking Football United national tournament at the over 50s and over 60’s level and also at the local 12 team event organised by the longer established Uxbridge Ramblers. Another 12 team tournament, this time organised by the Middlesex FA, was entered and won by the Wealdstone Wanderers! In so doing, it followed the path successfully trodden by Greece some years ago when they won the European Championship on penalties, having seemingly progressed by simply stopping their opponents scoring at all. And success has piled on success. Just recently the team triumphed in the National League Trust’s Walking Football Tournament that was held at Powerleague, Wembley. The Trust has also been involved in Dormers Wells Leisure Centre and the Botwell Green Leisure Centre Sports Days.
The second activity, Stones Soccer in Schools, was launched in January 2016 and is a partnership between The Trust and three Harrow based schools, St Bernadette’s and St Joseph’s in Kenton along with Camrose School, Edgware. Three more Harrow based Primary schools will join the scheme during the next academic year. Moves are also underway to incorporate the scheme into six schools in the LB Hillingdon in due course. We hope to be able to provide Wealdstone footballers who are also FA Qualified coaches to undertake the coaching element of the scheme. That would create a stronger link between the children attending the schools and the football club, which can only be of benefit to the club’s future.
Last year the Trust worked with the Wealdstone Youth Section and Stanmore College for two football summer camps organised by the Chairman of the Youth Section and James Duncan, who runs The Football Scholarship Scheme at Stanmore College. The majority of any profit made at the events was passed to Wealdstone Youth with £400 going to The Trust.
Camps were subsequently run in the October, February and May half term breaks as well as during the Easter holiday, and we are now in a spell of 5 weeks of summer camps at Grosvenor Vale. Again, any benefits accruing from the event over and above payments to the coaches will pass to the Wealdstone Youth setup. Attendances at the camps have risen since their inception, and last week saw an average attendance of 30 youngsters per day, peaking at 42 on the Wednesday.
The camps have already provided 7,500 child hours activity covering from 10 to 42 children per day at 6 hours a day. They are promoted as, “JJ soccer school presented by WFC Foundation Trust in conjunction with Wealdstone Youth FC”.
While the Trust’s work slowly expands into the community, the existing lack of certainty regarding the lease and the consequent inability to provide activities on site for the time being limits what the Trust can offer.
The Trust’s work continues quietly in the background, but it IS raising awareness of the club locally and, while hopefully benefiting the local community, is also laying the foundations for encouraging more people to become aware of and be involved in the club’s future.
For more info contact: Nick Symmons, Director of the Wealdstone FC Football Foundation Trust via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org