A whole new

Fir Park club work­ing hard to find fans of to­mor­row

Wishaw Press - - SCHOOL NEWS - Andy McGil­vray

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

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