The SPFL Trusts “Trusted Trophy Tour” stopped off at Dens Park to showcase some of the work that Dundee FC do in the local community.
This comes as the SPFL Trust (Scottish Professional Football League Trust) sets an ambitious target for clubs to engage one million people through community engagement every year, to be achieved over the next five years.
Currently, the SPFL Trust and all 42 member clubs engage with an estimated 710,000 individuals every year. This reflects around 13% of Scotland’s population, according to research conducted by the SPFL (Scottish Professional Football League) in 2016.
Director Steve Martin explained just how the club has gone about improving its programmes in the community: “We totally refurbished DFC in the Community, which is our slogan, in the summer.
“The first thing we did was with Active Schools cause we wanted to get in with the school kids again, that was very, very important.
“We’re doing 12 sessions in nine different schools during the week, with roughly 160 to 180 kids a week, which is fantastic.
“They all have Dundee kits on which is fantastic.”
Some of the children involved in Dundee’s after school programmes were invited to Dens to take part in a training session on the pitch, and get a chance to have their photos taken with the SPFL Premiership Trophy, and the League Cup.
Lewis Melee is the community manager at Dundee FC, and he spoke about the clubs after school programmes: “We have classes on every day of the week, up to three a day some days. Our coaches work very closely with the club to create a package of class sessions.
“Ultimately the fun element shines through in terms of the games.
“It’s a brilliant opportunity to have the kids down here today, and get them on the pitch. Their heroes play on it on a Saturday and they get to see it and be part of it today.
“They’re part of our projects and we look forward to having them as part of that for a long time to come.
While the club currently works with nine primary schools in Dundee, Lewis added that plans are in place to expand the programme in the coming months.
“We’re looking to expand the programme in the next academic year and add variety to what we do in the classes.
“At the moment it’s only football, but we’d like to expand to Futsal and girls only football.
“An uptake in girls and woman’s football is the long-term ambition for our classes.”
The list of schools currently working with DFC in the community can be found at http://dundeefc.co.uk/club/dfc-in-the-community/ and Lewis spoke about how parents with children at these schools can get their kids involved.
“The schools will send out letters and leaflets, a block is £25 and at the end of the block the kids get a free match ticket and a DFC in the community tee-shirt.
“We have a constant link with the schools to allow parents the easiest way possible to get in touch, because we want to have as many kids as possible playing football.”
It is not just children that DFC in the community has programmes for, as Steve explained that the club is looking to take a universal approach.
“One of the things we wanted to do was connected with Alzheimer’s Scotland.
“I was invited down to Tannadice to see what Alzheimer’s Scotland have done with Football Memories, which is a programme sponsored by the SFA.
“The work they do is fantastic and rather than us competing with them, they invited us to join them and hold the sessions once a month here at Dundee. So, May 3rd we are kicking off our sessions at Dundee.
“As well as this, we’ve been approved to do walking football which will kick off at the end of the football season.”
Another programme being run at Dens Park is Football Fans in Training. Dundee Football Club and DFC in the Community partnered up with the SPFL Trust’s Football Fans in Training – which allows fans to get involved with the club and lose weight along the way.
Scott Anderson is a member of Football Fans in Training, and he believe that the environment of the classes is key to their success.
“You can come here and it is people like yourself. If you go to a gym it’s full of people posing, so it’s a comfortable environment.
“I’ve been a Dundee supporter for 40 years so to be where the players are it’s a bonus.
“When I started, I was 91 kilos and I’m now down to 89 kilos which I’m happy with, my main aim is to get down to 85 so if I achieve that I know I’ll have achieved something.”
John Coleman is one of the coaches that runs the Football Fans in Training sessions, and he believes that using Dens Park as the base for the programme is one of the reasons for its success.
“The classes take place here in the gym, we do stuff in the lounges at Dens, we get on and around the pitch and do work in the stands as well.
“We help the fans be a bit more active, make sure that they’ve got a better life style and then losing weight is the long-term goal.”
The Fans in Training programme is one used by numerous clubs throughout Scotland, and borrowing ideas from other clubs is something that Steve and his team are trying to do more of, in order to reach all corners of the community.
“Myself and Lewis are speaking to other clubs and getting their ideas on what they do.
“In the next 12 to 18 months we’re looking to have 10 or 11 projects on the go, and this will lead into us going for charitable status, which will allow us to help people out in the community.
“Not just kids, but encompass everyone in the community, we want to be able to give everybody a good time.”