Preston North End Community and Education Trust are celebrating their 30th Anniversary.
PNE were one of six English clubs who made it their aim to build and enhance links with their communities and surrounding areas.
A figure close to the heart of the scheme in its initial phase was Oshor Williams, discussed the main reasons for the implementation of the “Football in the Community” programme:
“The inception of the Football in the Community programme emerged out of discussions within the PFA about the landscape and culture of English Football in the 1980's.
“The outlook was bleak with partisan violence between spectators the norm and racism within the game endemic. “
“The National Front were trying to hijack football to mobilise their own toxic bigotry and disasters at several stadia including Heysel, Hillsborough and Bradford served only to emphasise the fact that football needed to put existing fans and prospective fans back at the heart of the game.”
At the start of the scheme the plan was to use the players to go into the community and get clubs to deliver coaching, sporting and social activities with the clear aim of making people feel part of their clubs.
In charge of implementing “Football in the Community” at Deepdale was Mick Baxter, a former player, who was also North End’s community officer for three years until his sad passing aged only 32.
Oshor Williams followed on from Mick and was the PNE Community Officer and feels his experience with “Football in the Community” has helped him throughout his career:
“My two years as PNE Community Officer were invaluable and helped me develop myself as a person.”
He added: “Together with all the other former players who took up roles as community officers we gained a range of qualifications in coaching and business management to give us the skills to run the Community schemes effectively.
“It also helped me realise the impact players can make simply by using a little of their time to give something back to the game and the fans who sustain the industry.
“When I came to work at the PFA I was able to apply the knowledge and skills acquired to assist me in my role within the PFA education department.
“Importantly, I had an understanding of the contribution players make to the Community Trusts and Foundations across the country.”
Mick Baxter’s son Ross, spoke of his pride at what his Dad accomplished in starting the scheme here at Deepdale:
“I remember it being run in a small box with my Dad and just a few members of staff, the second from the end, and now its massive and under one stand,” he said.
Nowadays, PNE Community have added to and developed the ideas of the original scheme. It runs a wide variety of activities within the community such as soccer schools, educational schemes, futsal and much more.
Ross Baxter was thankful for the impact the scheme has had on the community:
“If my dad was here he’d be super proud of what it’s become and what it has achieved.”
“It’s amazing for Preston North End and the fact it’s still going thirty years on.
“It’s been so good for everyone who’s been involved.”
The club would like to thank everyone who have been involved in “Football and the Community”, ‘The Sir Tom Finney Foundation’ and now more recently, the Preston North End Community and Education Trust over the last 30
years and we hope to continue to achieve great things in the community.