Built on good foundations 

Ex-Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper looks at how the region’s top football clubs are giving back to the local community, and speaks to the head of Newcastle United Foundation, Kate Bradley

The North East’s ‘big three’ football clubs are all actively involved in their respective local communities, using the power of football as a means of improving the lives of local people.

Middlesbrough FC has the MFC Foundation and Sunderland AFC has the Foundation of Light, while Tyneside’s top football club has the Newcastle United Foundation. I caught up with head of Newcastle United Foundation, Kate Bradley to discuss the foundation’s work and big plans for the future…

The foundation is celebrating its tenth birthday this year. How has it developed in that time and what has been achieved to date? 

We are a registered charity that takes Newcastle United Football Club into the local communities. Our work is really diverse: we deliver school programmes, work with disabled children and young unemployed people, promote healthy lifestyles and help youngsters to gain qualifications. We worked with more than 54,000 people last year – which is slightly more than a full St James’ Park – and we’ve grown from a small team to now having a staff of more than 100 people who work in the community and use football to motivate and inspire.

The foundation is well supported by our patrons and the football club and we have an excellent board of trustees. To date, we’ve raised over £13 million thanks to the support of people and businesses in the North East but, as we grow, our plans and projects will continue to need increasing support.

It’s an exciting time for the foundation as you’ve recently announced plans to establish a sport, education and wellbeing hub in the heart of the city. What was the inspiration behind this plan? 

Just a couple of years ago a standalone centre was the dream but in 2017/18 we plan to build a vibrant, state-of-the-art hub for sport, learning and wellbeing, located just a goal-kick from St James’ Park. It’s not just about constructing a new building for our charity, it’s about transforming lives, giving a community a new lease of life and changing it forever. It was always our dream to do this for the local community and provide a hub to deliver the programmes from our award-winning team and we want local businesses involved to make our dream a reality.

What opportunities will this centre offer the community? 

We need a permanent base to deliver our sporting and education programmes so, along with a sports hall and a football pitch, there will be classrooms and digital learning suites plus meeting spaces for the wider community.

You’ve mentioned that businesses can get involved in the project… 

This is a multi-million pound project and we need support in order to create a centre that will benefit thousands of young people and their families across the city and beyond. Businesses can join this project at a crucial early stage and join an exclusive club that will enjoy a lifetime’s association with Newcastle United Foundation. Businesses can support us in a number of ways including corporate donations, sponsorship, charity of the year partnerships, employee volunteering and gifts in kind. They can also support our fundraising events such as our annual dinner or CEO Sleepout, and we also have naming opportunities for the new centre. We already have multiple partnerships with businesses and other organisations that are helping us with our mission but always welcome new support too.

What stage of this ambitious project are you currently at? 

We have agreed terms with the trustees of Murray House Recreational Centre to transfer the ownership of the existing site and building to the foundation and we have appointed Ryder Architecture to design the new building and Muckle LLP to advise on the asset transfer.

What are the other priorities for the foundation? 

The start of the new season marks the tenth birthday of the foundation and we have exciting plans. We’re holding a very special fundraising dinner on Newcastle’s Town Moor on November 7 to celebrate the club’s 125th Anniversary. The Newcastle United Women’s team has also been relaunched this season. This will form part of the foundation’s work as a new player pathway for girls’ football and we will kick off a new BTEC in Futsal in partnership with Newcastle College in September. We will also continue to work closely with NE1 in helping young people not in training or employment to connect to local employers.

It’s fantastic to see that the region’s football clubs are putting back into their local communities. To find out more and support any of these three foundations and their excellent work, please visit: www.nufoundation.org.uk (@NU_Foundation), www.foundationoflight.co.uk (@SAFCFol) and www.mfcfoundation.co.uk (@MFCFoundation).

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