THIRTY years after narrowly avoiding complete collapse, non-league club Poole Town are continuing to repay the community that supported them as they eye up their latest promotion push, writes Tum Balogun.
The Southern League Premier South side were recently graced with a visit from local MP Sir Robert Syms for their array of local projects.
These include their Trident Soccer Programme, that offers free and heavily discounted coaching sessions for children, aged five to 13, through the summer months.
Poole director Richard Gale says the club’s work with local families and schools provides incentives for good behaviour as well as some relief for an age group that was significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “We’ve provided around 2,500 free coaching sessions during the past year through our kids initiative.
“We operate something called ‘The Boot Room' which is providing schools and kids with reconditioned boots and trainers if they can’t afford it.
“We do free family ticket days inviting local school kids, their parents and families to come down to matches free of charge.
“The whole drive is to be very proactive with our local schools in helping their kids attend, behave and get them involved in sport.”
Like many non-league clubs, Poole are supported by the tireless work of volunteers, and it is now easier than ever to get involved thanks to Pitching In's Trident Leagues Volunteer Hub as part of their multi-million pound investment in grassroots football.
Gale credits the campaign with providing crucial funding which has helped the club support vulnerable families.
“We lost some traction for the first couple of years because of Covid where we really couldn’t do anything,” he added.
“And then we really sort of started again last year and the Pitching In money that came in was a great help to us because that money gave us the initial funding to do the Trident Soccer Programme that we did last summer.
“Whereby we offered a thousand free places to a variety of days ranging from three hours long to full days.
“Any kid can come along, if the parents are able to pay, please give us a donation, but as far as I’m concerned kids have had a really rough time over the last few years.
“So we don’t preclude anybody.”
The Dolphins finished ninth last term in a disappointing campaign which saw them end 14 points outside of the play-off spots.
But with new investment and perspective on the club’s previous predicament, chairman Chris Reeves - first appointed back in 1978 - is buoyant about the prospect of a march up the pyramid.
“We had to pay all the football related debts that came out of the woodwork,” he added on his return to the Black Gold Stadium in 1991 after an enforced four year hiatus.
“But we didn't have any right to play in the ground we built and we ended up on a public pitch.
“Now we’re back at the same level that we were at when we lost the stadium and with the hope of going higher.
“We want to go back but it couldn't happen without all these wonderful people.”
Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/