Dale’s Football In The Community Scheme Reaches 25 Year Milestone
Rochdale AFC’s Football in the Community Trust has reached the 25 years milestone.
The Football in the Community (FITC) initiative began operating officially on September 1987 and saw the now Head of FITC, Keith Hicks, take up his role three weeks later on October 5th.
Former footballer Hicks, who is of course still in the job today, was forced to retire from the game after sustaining an injury during a match against Crewe Alexandra at Spotland and returned to the club to take up the role in the FITC.
The scheme was the brainwave of Micky Burns of the Professional Footballers Association and he originally oversaw the setting up of projects at Manchester City, Manchester United, Bolton Wanderers, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and Bury followed six months later by Rochdale and five other clubs.
The intention was to use the facilities at each club to promote community engagement and use players to act as role models, especially to youngsters in the local communities.
The aims and objectives set out for Rochdale AFC were to encourage more people (especially children) to play football, to encourage more people to become interested and support Rochdale AFC by forging closer links between the club and the local community, and to promote the issue of social inclusion by offering opportunities for young people who may be prevented from fully participating in mainstream activities.
These objectives are exactly the same today.
Today, Dale’s Football in the Community are out and about across the Borough every day of the week engaging with youngsters through initiatives such as their Respect Project scheme which sees first team players spend an afternoon with primary schools kids. Their work also sees them hold soccer school courses, as well as Friday and Saturday night football sessions which are aimed at 13-19 year olds.
During the last 25 years, highlights have included being part of the Freedom of the Borough award which was given to the club for their significant contribution to the local community. Being voted amongst the top three Community Schemes in 2nd Division in 2009/10, as well as in the top two in North West Region last season also rank highly.
Looking back over more than two decades, Keith Hicks said: “Various Managers, too many to mention, have given great assistance to us ensuring players have been made available to help us promote the club, their presence especially in schools is invaluable and presently thanks should go to John Coleman and Jimmy Bell for their contribution.
“I would be wrong not to mention the invaluable assistance of the club’s Secretaries over the years, especially Colin Garlick for his efforts and advice.
“Finally, I must thank all the staff coaches who have worked tirelessly for me over the years, especially Siobhan McElhinney, who has proved a essential part of the present project set up and who takes much credit for her total commitment to the club with her duties as Assistant Trust Manager and Centre of Excellence Coach.
“Here’s to the next twenty five years!”