A whole new
Fir Park club working hard to find fans of tomorrow
Dawn Middleton sits behind a desk looking away from the floor-to-ceiling windows that look on to Fir Park. Otherwise, she says, she wouldn’t get any work done.
Motherwell FC Community Trust’s general manager operates from what was an executive box in a former life, right in the furthest away corner of the Davie Cooper Stand.
The pitch that you can see out of Dawn’s office window is being dug up and replaced because it’s not thick enough, apparently, even though on the final day of the league season it looked like you could play snooker on it.
It’s that attention to detail that has the club on the way up, reaching both domestic cup finals and finishing seventh in the Premiership, and that in turn helps the Community Trust.
They want to get as many people in the North Lanarkshire town involved with the club, from age three to 93, and that’s where Dawn comes in.
“The Community Trust gives you a chance to be more than a fan in the stands, you can be part of the club,” says Dawn.
“At the Community Trust we’re the charitable arm of the football club. They used to be known as the community department – and we do everything.
“Motherwell is very much a community club. We know our place, we’re not a big faceless brand, we actually work for local people, and we’re not always good at publicising what we do, but we do an awful lot of work.
“We have programmes running for people from the age of three right through to 93.
“We start with our Mini Steelkids programme, which is for three to five- year- olds, and is based on developmental physiology – the SFA Mini Kickers programme, really – and it’s about agility, balance, co-ordination and speed, which is delivered here at Fir Park, Bellshill and down at Lanark.
“We also go into nurseries. And we’re aware of the demographics of where we work. One of the big barriers to participation can be if the kid doesn’t have the right kit to wear.
“We don’t expect people who come into our programmes to be Motherwell fans – we’re here for the community.
“So we give each child a free t-shirt that says ‘I’m a Mini Steelkid’ and that means every child who wants to come along to our pre-school programmes looks the same.
“There’s no stigma attached to not having the latest Motherwell strip, the latest Barcelona strip, or whatever that might be. This is all about feeling part of it. Steelman, the club mascot, comes along and gives out the t-shirts.
“It’s about making children feel welcome – that’s very important to us as a club. It’s about the community.
“It’s very important that we know we’re not Motherwell FC’s Academy.
“There is a pathway for those youngsters who have potential, and we want them to play for Motherwell, but we are ‘grassroots’. We run community teams and it’s grassroots participation.
“We’re a charity, we’re working to ensure that children get an opportunity to play football at a reasonable cost, because as a charity we don’t need to make profits. Any profit we make is reinvested back into the club.”
The ethos of the Community Trust isn’t just about children though, it’s about the entire town.
Dawn, a former secondary school teacher who has previously been involved in managing legacy events like the 2012 Olympics and Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games, wants everybody to know that they can be a part of things at Fir Park.
She said: “We’re a fan-owned club now and this is about working together.
“We work very well with the Well that’s the free ticket that gets you away from your concerns for a couple of hours, whether that’s your drop-in football session, whether it’s the cheap child-care of holiday camps – the club has something here for everyone.
“The effort that people go to to tell you what this club means to them is incredible, and we need to give something back to people. The disposable income that people had many moons Society to encompass the local community. We work very well with North Lanarkshire’s Active Schools team, and that enables us to go into schools to deliver a number of programmes. These tend to be with a ‘health’ focus.
“We work with NHS Lanarkshire in a tobacco- awareness, secondhand smoke programme, which has always been a thing for Motherwell Football Club. We used to have the ‘Keep cigarettes away from the match’ banner across the stand, and we have a programme, sponsored by the Scotch Whisky Association, that is about alcohol awareness. That has been very successful because we’ve built that partnership with Motherwell police,who are running a ‘You’re asking for it’ programme, which is about buying alcohol for under-18s.
“By marrying those together, there’s a bigger impact for the programme and we’re getting the message into schools.
“In December last year we held a oneday seminar here called ‘One Club, One Community, Shared Goals’.
“We invited the NHS, fire, health, education, leisure, Citizens Advice, Samaritans, everybody we could think of, to come in. We just opened the blinds of the offices overlooking Fir Park and said ‘If you can use the power of that, to make your job and achieving your goals easier, what would that look like’.
“Through that, a lot of partnerships have grown.
“We now run a drop-in session here on Wednesdays, in conjunction with Street Soccer Scotland who run the Homeless World Cup. This isn’t just for homeless people, this is for people who are isolated, maybe new to the area, and who are struggling a wee bit.
“We work with the Sporting Memories network, and we have a group with not