Portsmouth FC, a club that has always prided itself on not just giving back to the community, but being a part of it. But given the club barely has the finances to stay afloat in these austere times, how is it continuing to help the community?
Adam Lea is head of Pompey in the Community, and believes the club is helping people more than ever before. Sitting in The Froddington Arms, a stones throw away from Fratton Park, Adam looks perfectly at home.
He takes a small sip of his locally brewed ale, and begins talking. “It’s a shame what the previous owners have done to this club, it’s because of them were in this predicament.”
No, he’s not talking about Portsmouth’s dire league standing, but the fact the club can no longer afford to bankroll community schemes.
“It’s been like this for a while. We were actually forced to register as a charity back in 2009, and now rely solely on donations from others. Network Rail are a great help to us, regularly making donations. We’re actually working alongside them now in one of our community schemes.”
I question Adam further on this, and am impressed with what I hear.
“We call it the ‘Off the Rails’ project, and it aims to teach year six children about safety on the railway.”
Why only year six children, I hear you asking. The age group was specifically chosen as this is the age children begin playing out on their own, so have to make their own decisions on what is safe. And who can argue with the results?
Adam’s face lights up as he reels off on his fingers what the scheme has achieved: “we got so much positive feedback from the first few sessions we ran that we extended them to two hours each. Even I didn’t think they’d be this successful, and the teachers and parents have been full of praise for what we’re trying to do here.”
Naturally, not all Pompey in the Community’s schemes are railway based. It primarily runs sports schemes, and Adam is a firm believer that these sports schemes can help instil the discipline children need in later life.
“We run loads of different sports schemes, I can think of about fifteen off the top of my head. These schemes do help the children, it allows them to relax and enjoy themselves – but only within the rules of the game. We believe these skills are transferable to real life, were showing them you can enjoy themselves whilst not stepping out of line.”
Adam hands me a pamphlet, which I flick through. The schemes offered by Pompey in the Community are of a high standard, all coaches are FA trained, and the P.E lessons that they run in schools are of a high standard.
Although no longer funded by Portsmouth FC, Pompey in the Community still works closely with the club, with the club allowing the charity to use its premises for some of the schemes, such as the stadium tour, where children are given access to all areas, and are interviewed post-match style.
Once back in the Pompey Study Centre (Pompey in the Community’s base), children are given the chance to create a comic strip about their visit to Fratton Park.
“It’s important that we offer schemes that aren’t just sport based, not every child wants to run around a field for six hours straight,” explains Adam. “This is one of the more popular schemes, and helps to get children of the streets and using their brain. We’ve also given every year five in the city a book about a boy following his dream to be a footballer, were trying to help children in every way we can.”
But are these schemes actually helping anyone? Adam is adamant they are, smiling enthusiastically, he says: “I actually bumped into a young lad who used to be part of one of our schemes. He said we helped turn his life around. You know the type, getting kicked out of school after school, ASBO child. He’s on about forty grand a year now.”
It’s not just stories like this that confirm that the scheme is having a positive effect on the city. Pompey in the Community has been nominated for various awards, and actually won the Positive Futures Contribution to Communication Safety Award last year, which is a nationwide award.
Adam finishes the interview with a few wise words: “We know we can’t rest on our laurels. We know what we are doing here is a good thing, but we’ve always got to strive for improvement, to help more people.”
It’s fair to say Pompey in the Community are doing a fantastic job of helping younger people not just realise their potential, but enjoy themselves whilst doing it.