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15 September 2016

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Vice-chairman looks at the Luton Town Community Trust

along with the picture of David receiving his man-of-the-match award from commercial manager David Hoskins for taking five wickets for 21 runs in the recent LTFC corporate cricket league match against VocalinkTalk of the Town programme notes were written by vice-chairman David Wilkinson ahead of Saturday's game against Grimsby, and appeared in From The BoardroomThese

Good afternoon everyone and a warm welcome to Kenilworth Road to you all and especially to our visitors, the Officials, Players and Supporters from Grimsby Town, who we also welcome back into the Football League.  

The Mariners have a long, proud and eventful history as a Football League club, having been founded in 1878. They, like us have spent time in all the top five divisions and, like us, have had their share of pain and glory. Over the years we have played each other 44 times, having won 14, drawn 13 and lost 17, so not much of a trend there then.

Most recently, last season, they managed to gain promotion to League Two via a National League play-off final victory against Forest Green Rovers to end a six-year absence. We wish them well, back where they belong, if for no other reason than their history and longevity.

We have talked a lot about our hopes and plans for the future in recent programmes and other media, and have stressed the importance not just to the Club and its fans, but even more so to the Town, its environs, and all its residents, whether they have an interest in football or not. So, having been privileged to be invited to one of their meetings this week, I thought perhaps I could talk a bit about an unsung, but increasingly valuable and successful venture, the Luton Town Community Trust (the Trust).

The Trust is a fast growing charity with the following aims:-

  1. To promote community participation in healthy recreation by providing facilities for the playing of association football and other sports capable of improving health.
  2. To provide and assist in providing facilities for sport, recreation or other leisure time activities for people who have need for such facilities by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disablement, poverty or social and economic circumstances.
  3. To advance the education of children and young people.

A rather long winded way of saying that the Trust is set up to help all people, but with an emphasis on those disadvantaged in some way, to get the benefits associated with involvement in sport.

Recently an independent report was commissioned to investigate the work of the Trust and assess the difference it makes to the lives of thousands of children, young people and young adults. The research covered the period between 1st April 2015 and 31st March 2016 and amongst its findings were:-

  1. The Trust delivered almost 60,000 hours of activities
  2. There were over 1000 individual sessions
  3. There were over 3500 regular individual participants.

The report concluded that the community activity, that they could analyse, delivered a minimum cost saving to local communities of over £2.5 million meaning that every £1 invested in the Trust delivered nearly £5 in annual cost savings.

The Trust’s core project currently provides 70 free PE lessons every week in Luton and Beds, which reach nearly 2,000 children. The Trust has been building a significant presence in girls and women’s football with their new player development centre, and is growing its disability football projects.  

The Trust generates all its own funds through either football coaching activities or attracting grants from awarding bodies such as the Premier League Charitable Fund, the EFL Trust and the PFA.

Recently a three-year grant of nearly £30,000 was awarded by the Wembley National Trust to help expand the disability sport and football activities, which will mean at least two sessions each day somewhere in Luton and Beds to over 200 children and adults providing an opportunity to improve or even change their lives.

The new Girls Player Development centre opened in June in partnership with Luton Town Ladies FC, which means girls can now be offered the same opportunities as have previously only been able to be offered to boys. There are currently 60 girls in training at the centre between the ages of 8 and 16.

An area of the Trust’s work which is often overlooked is ‘community cohesion’. It is not glamorous and involves late night sessions in Marsh Farm, Lewsey Farm and Farley Hill for young men from the estates. The Trust partners with Active Luton, Luton Borough Council and Beds Police, who highly value the projects as a way of helping to address some of the fairly serious gang crime issues in these areas. Each week over 100 young men attend the Centres with the police sometimes joining in, which can help to tackle anti-social behaviour at a very local level.

The trust also runs a mentoring service to help children at risk of permanent exclusion from mainstream education as well as running literacy and numeracy educational programmes around football in lots of local schools.

Last but by no means least is the talent identification programme for the academy and it is the case that the majority of boys who are signed into the academy progress through the Trust’s Youth development system.

The Trust is a separate entity to the Club, but they do run side by side and it is proven that the better the football club does the more the Trust will be able to grow so the more people can then benefit and so on. It is a virtuous circle.

The Club’s plans will benefit the town in lots of ways. If we can see such growth in community support and cohesion in a couple of years in the bottom division of the football league just imagine what we can do higher up the pyramid in new facilities.

The Trust are justifiably proud of the work they do and clearly have a positive effect on many of the people they work with.

Here are a couple of the many quotes in the aforementioned impact assessment, which sum up what many people said about their involvement.

“LTFC Community Trust have brought enthusiasm and passion for learning to programmes targeted at those from the most deprived communities in Luton. Their programmes have helped us to reach learners who would not have engaged with learning through traditional teaching routes.”    

And: “The work is largely unseen by members of the public and is actually very valuable and quite extensive. They need to shout about the good work they are doing much more than they currently do.”

Here is a little shout. Thank you.

Enjoy the game,

Come On You Hatters!


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