Delivering a diverse range of activities for more than 45,000 people, the CITY Community Trust can be seen to be making a real difference within its local area. Covering West Somerset, North, Mid and East Devon, as well as the greater Exeter area, the trust’s 50 plus different programmes go far beyond its footballing roots.
Local sports personality award winner and Head of City Community Trust Jamie Vittles took time to speak with us this week.
‘The original idea behind community trusts was to improve football’s brand in the 80s in order to give the sport a better name. Exeter City’s own community trust launched in the early 90s, and I got involved in 2000 at the end of my playing career.’
‘We run more than 50 programmes within the trust, these range from football courses, multi-sport courses and many non-sport/educational courses. The whole idea behind the scheme is to make a difference to the local area through the football club.’
‘The football programmes are widespread and these are generally lots of fun footballing activities, either after school, in the school holidays or at weekends with tournaments. We work hand in hand with the pro side so that we can bring lots of the young people along to Exeter City games on a regular basis. But it’s not just football that we use as a tool to help out locally.’
‘Our disability and inclusion work is fantastic because it really gives everyone in the community the chance to get involved with us. We’ve also got a vibrant education programme which goes right through from some of the younger children, up to Level 2 & 3 BTEC courses and then into a two year Foundation Degree. We’re also involved with the National Citizens Service, so we’re giving 15-17 year olds the chance to explore, adventure, be taken out of their comfort zone and generally help them move forward into adulthood. As you can see, we’re a lot more than just football!’
The CITY Community Trust’s extensive work goes hand in hand with its place in the local economy. Working together with everyone in their community is something Jamie sees as vital.
‘By working with local businesses and being a visible part of the community, we’re able to get the message out to everyone, plus, our funding avenues can come via lots of different streams, such as the English Football League Trust, The Premier League, Sport England, local authority grants, National Citizens Service, fundraising events, and money generated from our programmes.’
Being so well connected to the community has meant utilising the football club’s brand and social media exposure opportunities. Jamie is well versed in their presence online.
‘We use lots of different social media platforms to get the message out there. We find Facebook is a great place to post pictures and get kids and parents to interact with us. We also use Twitter which, for us, is a great place to stay connected with the community and local businesses. We’re always looking at new ways to engage, so we’re going to begin using Snapchat and we’re already on Instagram; we’re always interested in exploring any new and effective ways to communicate and perhaps engage people who may be that little bit harder to reach.’
A question we’ve asked many of the Cap2 newsletter interviewees revolves around their thoughts on the future of their sport. Football might be one of the biggest sports in the UK, but Jamie still thinks there’s a lot of room for improvement.
‘We’ve found over the last few years that other sports are catching up with football. We need to make sure our core programmes and courses are growing at the same rate of participation as everyone else’s.’
And to do this Jamie has great advice for clubs of all sports.
‘My advice is don’t think about numbers. Don’t think how many people are we attracting and how many are participating. If you keep the quality high of each individual course you run, and you have a good workforce, and stay enthusiastic all the time then it’ll work out. What’s worked for us is collaborating with the area, with other sports and with local organisations, you really have to build your role within the community.’
Despite the huge success that CITY Community Trust has experienced, Jamie finds the individual cases to be the ones he’s proudest of.
‘I think our best achievement as a trust comes when you look at the individual case studies. When we’ve helped young people find a pathway into education, or into employment, or when a young player has moved into the Academy, or got a contract, or gone into coaching; even when we see the progress of our own coaches, that’s the real success, we don’t rely on numbers but on the positive journeys.’
A huge thanks to Jamie and City Community Trust for helping with this week’s article!