FAI and Vi-Ability “More than a Club” training and orientation conference

The Football Association of Ireland HQ in Abbotstown was host this week to the “More than a Club” project team. FAI CEO John Delaney welcomed the group to Dublin and this was the first occasion that the entire team from Ireland and Wales had the opportunity to meet.

The result of this training and orientation conference was a very fruitful week of exchanged learning.

The “More than a Club” project features a collaboration between the FAI and Welsh based social enterprise, Vi-Ability and is designed to develop social enterprise based community enterprises aligned to local professional football clubs. The project is supported by the Ireland Wales 2014-2020 European Territorial Co-Operation programme, which is helping to strengthen collaboration between Ireland and Wales to address common economic and social challenges.

In total, fourteen members of the project team participated in the training conference where participants were able to exchange their expertise and experience among their Irish and Welsh counterparts. The four partner clubs, Bohemian FC and Cork City FC from Ireland and Conwy Borough FC and Haverfordwest FC from Wales were all represented by their new football enterprise coordinators who will bring their club’s community engagement to a whole new level.

Participants engaged in training workshops which focussed on such topics as social enterprise development and income generation as well as receiving presentations from a number of guest speakers with highly relevant expertise and experience to share. The programme training was delivered in the form of theory and practical sessions to upskill the project team on the development and delivery of Walking Football, After-School numeracy and physical literacy programmes, dementia support initiatives as well as exploring angles to deliver other key public health messages around the innovative programmes to be delivered by the project team.

The project will see the FAI and Welsh project partners, Vi-Ability cooperate with local professional football clubs in Ireland and Wales and assist them to develop social enterprise based Community schemes providing support to address important social needs within disadvantaged communities. The aim is for football clubs in both regions to evolve as more valuable community entities and to become more relevant to more people locally.

The project management team believes that engaging communities in a more inclusive way can positively affect a football club’s sustainability. The expectation is that the social enterprise models that will be developed with clubs participating in the project can act as flagship models which other professional clubs in Ireland and Wales can look to emulate.

Project Manager, Derek O’Neill said:

“This week produced the perfect start to our project activity. While it was an intensive week of exchanged learning, it was an enjoyable and very worthwhile exercise. This conference has now further widened the lines of communication between all project partners in Ireland and Wales and everyone involved is now very excited about being involved in such a special project which we expect will produce huge benefits to a range of people from local communities in terms of health, education and social inclusion. Everyone is now keen to kick on and start delivering what we hope will become a very valuable and sustainable project.”