Club is committed to the community

WHILE there is no getting away from the fact that the main reason for a club's existence is for its football team, you cannot ignore its responsibility to the community, writes Derek Davis.

WHILE there is no getting away from the fact that the main reason for a club's existence is for its football team, you cannot ignore its responsibility to the community, writes Derek Davis.

Of course people want to see a winning team, they dream of being a star player one day and adore seeing their idols on a Saturday afternoon, or whenever games are played these days.

But clubs in troubled times like Ipswich don't get 18,000 season tickets after two terrible years on the back of 20 decent games in the latter part of the season.

The work started eight years ago by David Sheepshanks and his staff has gone a long way in getting the colossal support the club has today.


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The club has gone from having one Football in the Community officer, operating from Portman Road, to 38 centres operating from around East Anglia.

And that is just one of the wide range of initiatives which have made Ipswich Town the best-supported football team in East Anglia.

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Sheepshanks said: "Over the past five to six years we have developed a whole new generation of supporters from a range of initiatives and that has gone a long way to under-pinning the public support.

"Now, when you might least expect it, we have 18,000 people renewing season tickets despite two years of disappointment.

"I can cast my mind back to 1995 and most of the young kids were running around in Arsenal, Newcastle United or whoever teams' shirts.

"But now you only have to look around the region and see how many more youngsters are wearing Ipswich Town tops."

Some of the ways Ipswich Town gets to the heart of the community are:.

n Last season Town players made 270 voluntary appearances in the region to support charities, schools and hospitals.

n 4,500 children attended ITFC holiday soccer courses.

n 450 children regularly play in an Ipswich Town Youth League at under-eight and under-nine levels.

n 17,000 children were involved in birthday parties at Portman Road, which combine coaching and fun activities.

n The club held 110 school roadshows.

n Last season 450 children graduated from the highly-acclaimed Playing For Success scheme, after spending two months at Portman Road developing their literacy, numeracy and computer skills.

On top of that Town have won plaudits for their International Soccer Exchange Programme with groups from Finland and Norway visiting Portman Road and players, male and female, visiting Holland and Norway from the region. Ipswich have 75 experienced coaches and 57 youth managers/coaches. They have seen 250 newly-qualified coaches gain their FA Level One badge through the ITFC education programme.

The club has established partnerships with the Home Office, Suffolk Social Services and Anglia Care Services and works to improve adult care and education.

Sheepshanks added: "We do it because it underpins the Ipswich Town support. Of course they want to see their team, they want to see their favourite stars and they want to see us beat the opposition but we are an important part of the community now."

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