Community anchor organisations help combat the effects of deprivation and offer support - Douglas Samuel

Since Spartans Community Football Academy (CFA) was set up in 2006, the needs of the people in our local community and those who use our facilities have changed – especially during the pandemic. Undoubtedly it has been a hugely challenging year for everyone.

Douglas Samuel, chief executive of The Spartans Community Football Academy
Douglas Samuel, chief executive of The Spartans Community Football Academy

Our understanding of our community has deepened, and as a result, we can develop stronger relationships and improve programmes and support packages to better serve the needs of local people.

The past year has reminded us of the need to keep evolving, to be able to respond immediately to emerging needs. Helping people to become actively engaged with physical activity and sport is a key tool for preventing obesity and tackling poor physical and mental health, however, we acknowledge that it is just one piece of a much bigger and complex puzzle.

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We know that in deprived communities, the most prevalent issues and concerns are commonly interlinked. For example, financial poverty does not sit in isolation, and the impact of living below the breadline will span across multiple areas of people’s lives and their health and wellbeing. That is where Community Anchor organisations like Spartans CFA can play a key role, offering blended services and facilities that go towards tackling some of these issues, recognising the connected nature of different causes and needs.

An Easter football camp for youngsters at Spartans

As we return to some semblance of normality, it will be important not to leave anyone behind. The public purse is inevitably going to be stretched, meaning greater demand for community support. Effective collaboration and partnerships will be crucial to creating meaningful and cost-effective solutions around tackling various social needs. The extent of the challenge is far greater than anything that could be tackled by one organisation working alone.

A key partner of Spartans CFA is Social Investment Scotland (SIS), who have been by our side since day one. Access to affordable, flexible finance and funding is an essential part of being able to deliver community services, ensuring they are affordable (ideally free) at the point of access and inclusive.

Over the years, we have developed a close relationship with the team at SIS. They have supported significant projects such as the initial build of the academy and the transformation of the grass pitch to AstroTurf in 2012. Importantly, the relationship has also evolved and grown over time with ongoing support enabling us to adapt and grow.

As we continue to operate in uncertain times, we also recognise that social needs are increasing and that we have an opportunity to do more, offering additional aspects of support within the community. We are, for instance, looking to work more closely with health providers on elements of social prescribing, embedding physical activity and sport into treatment plans, and we are also hoping to build a larger, sustainable youth workspace. Continuing to partner with like-minded people and organisations will be a key part of helping us to realise our dreams and aspirations.

Covid-19 could prove to be a real turning point for community services. For us, remaining flexible, innovative, agile and responsive to change will continue to underpin our strategy, focus and approach going forward. We exist to help others; it is what drives our people each and every day.

Douglas Samuel, chief executive of The Spartans Community Football Academy

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