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FAI launches ‘More Than a Club’ initiative

The FAI (Football Association of Ireland) has launched a new initiative, More Than A Club, that aims to help help SSE Airtricity League clubs in further strengthening links within their local communities.

The initiative, which is jointly run with the Welsh social enterprise Vi-Ability and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, will see Cork City FC and Dublin’s Bohemians develop social enterprise-based ‘Club in the Community’ schemes. The name of the project itself is likely inspired by the motto of FC Barcelona; ‘Més que un club’ means ‘More than a club’ in Catalan.

The project will empower the clubs to recognise and utilise football and its value to connect with social programmes within the community. It is of the aim that the clubs will evolve with important roles in the community entities as part of this project with dedicated resources assigned to both clubs.

Speaking on the launch, FAI Project Manager Derek O’Neill was ecstatic looking ahead at the initiative: “The FAI believes that engaging with the community in a more inclusive way can positively affect a football club’s prospects of sustainability. Participating in innovative community partnerships can facilitate this

Adding to this, FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin said: “The Consultation Process Report recognised that along with sporting and business interests, community engagement was another essential development pillar of successful and sustainable football clubs. The club’s five-year strategic plans have shown a strong emphasis on community engagement.

This community focus can serve to attract new club stakeholders with more people, businesses and agencies becoming advocates of the club and admirers of the programmes which they can deliver. The clubs can become more than just football teams and be more relevant to more people within their communities

The project will start immediately and the FAI will make funding available to recruit two full-time Football Enterprise Coordinators in each club for an 18-month period. The FAI will also provide guidance from the project management team on how to develop the Football Enterprise scheme and the social programmes.

Cork City FC have already been leading the way through social connections and extending from the boundaries of Turners Cross. A renewed “marriage” between the club and UCC in 2016 gave increased access to the club for training facilities, as well as making scholarships more available. Elsewhere the club has been involved in charitable fundraising throughout the 2017 league season, raising funds for Marymount Hospice and the CUH Charity.