Football For All – Q&A

We received an email earlier this week asking for information about our Football For All from someone interested in the project and interested in trying to establish something similar. We were impressed by the questions to such an extent we wanted to publish them for anyone else who had similar questions about the project.

– How many people come to your football sessions, how do you reach out to them and mobilise them, how is the response and who’s mainly coming to your football sessions, also, but not only, in regards to gender?

Numbers fluctuate each week in terms of participation, mainly depending on the weather! We usually have between 25-35 people each week, with different people attending each week. Some people are there most weeks if not every week, and some turn up irregularly when they have a free weekend. There’s no obligation. We would guess that somewhere between 80 and 100 people attended at least one of our Football For All sessions in 2016.

Originally it was just members of our fanclub, Yorkshire St. Pauli, but then we started interacting with refugees and asylum seekers at the drop-in sessions of Leeds charity PAFRAS. Then people told their friends or heard about it on social media or through word of mouth and attendances grew rapidly.

The majority of our participants are male, but we’ve got an increasing number of women who play too. We’re currently working to reach out to women to try and increase the number of women participants, too. The sessions are open to everyone, and are played in a safe, friendly and uncompetitive environment which hopefully makes it welcoming to everyone attending.

– How do you finance your project sustainably, i.e. in the long run? What are your sources of funding and which is your major source? Do you have experience in applying for funding from funding bodies, the council or other organisations?

When we started the costs were just covered by our members. We just divided pitch costs between us and picked up any kit we could. But as numbers grew we knew we couldn’t rely on the same individuals funding it long term. We wanted to make the project sustainable and also run cost effectively. We’ve now got a great partnership with Powerleague Leeds where we play at a reduced rate in support of the work we do, and with increased participation we have managed to start to run at a small profit in the last 12 months. We didn’t want to operate at a profit, so any profit now goes back to PAFRAS as a monthly donation to help them provide meals and food at their drop-in sessions.

One of the main costs is the kit and equipment required. Not just boots, shirts and shorts but also goalkeeper gloves, bibs, footballs etc. We’ve spent hours looking at eBay and similar sites for bulk sales of kit! We once bought 20 pairs of Aston Villa socks. Thankfully social media has been an amazing tool in getting people to send us their old boots that are gathering dust. We’ve also had some sizeable donations of kit from people and companies wanting to help us. That’s so vital. We simply couldn’t provide for everyone without these acts of generosity.

We had some small funding from HAMARA, based in Leeds, two years ago which allowed us to replace kit and old boots that were no longer fit for purpose and also covered pitch costs during the weeks when we didn’t raise enough between us. But we’ve avoided some other funding opportunities for various reasons. Many can have strict criteria or require you to act in a certain way which really wouldn’t fit with our ideas for Football For All.

That’s why this year we decided to start Crowdfunding to raise £1,000 to help progress Football For All further. A target we’ve now surpassed overwhelmingly.

– How many people are involved regularly in organising and promoting your project and keeping it running?

There’s probably 7-8 of us who are involved on an almost daily basis, discussing things and making arrangements. Washing the kit, keeping it in our spare cupboards and stinking the whole house out. Things that it’s impossible to discuss with 160 participants. But at the same time it’s a project for everyone, there’s no leaders or hierarchy and that’s exactly how it always will be.

– Do you work together with other institutions or services and if so in what kind of relationship?

The project itself is run solely by Yorkshire St. Pauli and some of its members. However we have used PAFRAS and other agencies and services in Leeds to spread the message about the Football For All project to their service users. We’ve also developed close ties with similar clubs such as United Glasgow, AFC Unity, Republica Internationale and FC Lampedusa St. Pauli so that we can share experiences and ideas, as well as build friendly football relationships. Finally, we’ve linked up with FARE, Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and FootballvHomophobia amongst others to support their campaigns and messages that are similar to the ethos of St. Pauli and in turn Yorkshire St. Pauli.

– What are the main problems and challenges to keep the project going, what are your long-term plans?

The only challenge is wondering when we’ll have 50 people turn up one week and how we will possibly manage everyone and divide them into games! Seriously though, the only problem is continuing to ensure we can provide for everyone. We have always made a point of ensuring we are in a position where we can provide for everyone. Not just with shirts, but boots and equipment, and transport too. If we can provide kit, everything else is relatively simple. We don’t over complicate the sessions, people just turn up, borrow kit if they need it, get put into teams at random and start playing football. To that point, the project will always remain the same.

Whilst we don’t ever want to lose that simplicity, we are aware of how useful the project is to those who attend, and the opportunities that have arisen as a result. With our latest crowdfunding campaign raising £1000, we are going to look at the possibility of putting people through the Level 1  FA coaching course for example to allow us to be aware of coaching techniques and opportunities. We’re also looking at first aid courses to assist us in ensuring we can look after our players in the best possible way.

Ultimately, we want to welcome as many people as possible to Football For All and ensure we can continue to provide for those that attend, whilst maintaining the friendly, uncompetitive and welcoming environment in which we play.