League of Ireland Football & Social Responsibility Officers participate in first FSR training course.

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League of Ireland Football & Social Responsibility Officers participate in first FSR training course.

28th Apr 2023
The first ever training course aimed at Football & Social Responsibility (FSR) officers working with League of Ireland clubs took place last week facilitated by the FAI. The introduction of new FSR criteria into the UEFA and Domestic Club Licensing process has already prompted several LOI clubs to appoint people into this important community-focused role. The foundation training was delivered in cooperation with UEFA, Responsible Sport and the Football Business Academy who are providing accreditation for course participants. The clubs represented were Bray Wanderers, Bohemians, Cork City, Drogheda United, Finn Harps, St. Patrick’s Athletic, Waterford FC and Wexford FC. Most of these clubs have appointed new FSR officers with co-funding secured from the Department of Health via the Healthy Ireland fund while some others have received support from the Liverpool FC Foundation as they actively look to develop this emerging area of business. True to their club mantra of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, the LFC Foundation was also generous in its support to help provide a practical training opportunity for all new LOI club FSR officers. The week kicked off with an introduction to the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility to give participants a clear understanding of how this area of business has evolved and finally emerged in professional football clubs as Football & Social Responsibility. The participants were then taken through the evolution of UEFA’s FSR strategy before seeing the development stages of the FAI’s FSR strategy and finally learning how a similar approach can be used to develop a local League of Ireland club FSR strategy. Other course topics included workshops on Football for All Abilities, Football & Climate Action and an excellent Fundraising session. Later in the week, the group travelled to Liverpool for a study visit to the Liverpool FC Foundation and a visit to the Everton in the Community People’s Place hub. The LFC sessions were hosted at Anfield Stadium and comprised of a series of excellent presentations and workshops over two days by LFC Foundation Department Managers highlighting the mechanics of their specific programmes and touching on key themes such as target areas and clientele, programme content and delivery methods, funding sources and outcomes. It was truly an inspirational two days for participants to see how this work can transform the lives of the people with whom the LFC Foundation works. LOI Club participants also learned how some of this work could be replicated by their own clubs albeit on a smaller scale commensurate with resources available. The study visit concluded with a visit to the Everton in the Community People’s Place where participants learned about the positive impact that this innovative community hub is having on local people’s lives – and in some cases, saving people’s lives! League of Ireland FSR Manager, Derek O’Neill said: “This was the first FSR course of its kind facilitated by the FAI and I believe it’s been a great success. It’s highlighted the power that a football club has, irrespective of its size, to create and provide opportunities to help local people. Last week’s study visit showed our LOI club officers how to develop and deliver programmes which can make a positive social impact. I’m sure they picked up a lot of useful information as they look to build their community engagement capacity and I hope we can run another similar course for other clubs in the near future.” FAI FSR Manager, Des Tomlinson who was also instrumental in the course delivery observed: “Social & environmental sustainability are key to how we live our lives & how organisations do ’business’ and football is no different. Clubs that took part in the course have shown their willingness to play a role in developing and enhancing socially or environmentally sustainable actions that benefit their communities and wider society – whether, for example working to engage older adults or encouraging participation that is reflective of diversity in Irish society. The importance of this capacity building course, kindly supported by UEFA, cannot be underestimated”. Course moderator, Daniel Cade from Responsible Sport commented: “Kudos to the FAI and LOI for deciding to host this course. It’s no secret that football clubs have huge potential to create lasting positive impact. This, together with the elevated importance of sustainability and social responsibility in society and among stakeholders such as UEFA makes this course a massive step in the right direction”. More League of Ireland clubs are expected to make similar appointments in the near future and the FAI expects to provide more training opportunities for new club FSR staff. In the meantime, some League of Ireland clubs have already found that an authentic community focus has attracted the attention of new sponsors keen to express their own corporate social responsibility through the work of a local professional football club. There’s no doubt that if done well, giving back to the community can also produce significant rewards for clubs down the line not only for their standing and image in the local community, but on a commercial and sporting level as well.