Community is everything to Ramsgate Football Club, writes Oscar Maung-Haley
And over the course of the summer, hundreds of kids from across Thanet flocked to the WW Martin Community Stadium to enjoy a whole host of footballing fun.
Powered by funding from the Trident Community Foundation, the club initially found themselves heading into local schools - delivering PE lessons in an effort to get the local community active, fit and enjoying the benefits that come from a healthy lifestyle.
Masterminding operations is Matt Longhurst, who splits first-team managerial duties with working as Ramsgate's community officer.
Longhurst believes the club have a responsibility to help support their own when it comes to community endeavours – and couldn’t be prouder of this summer’s trailblazing initiative.
He said: “Our aim was to get as many people active as we could.
“We wanted to get those children who were at the back of the PE lesson moving towards the front and get them active and engaged.
“From there, we wanted to get them into either an active after school club or a multi-sport or football camp with ourselves in the summer holidays.
“Particularly in the area of Thanet, there’s a high deprivation level and the funding really enabled us to get a lot of those kids from being not active to being active.”
Following the festival of summer football, the club now looks set to continue its free school meals initiative across the upcoming October half term, with Ramsgate now being able to count on sponsorship support from Manston International Airport.
As a result of the sponsorship, the club will now play host to flight simulators and pilot headsets, as they aim to show their kids just one of the jobs they could one day aspire to.
Longhurst added: “We linked exercise and being active to being better and more successful in life, in terms of getting a job, friendship circle and building up social skills.
“On the back of a successful summer, we’ve now managed to get Manston Airport to sponsor us.
“We’ve now been able to put on another programme, free of charge, for the children that are on the free school meals programme again during the October half-term.
“We’ve got flight simulators coming in and headsets, all with the aim of showing the kids about different types of jobs that these kids can aspire to.”
Dreaming big is at the centre of all things Ramsgate, with the club eager to play an active part in the lives of everyone they touch.
And it’s an ethos that Longhurst, and chairman James Lawson, believe is one of the most important principles of being a football club.
Longhurst said: “Seeing 200 to 300 kids on our 3G during the summer months, enjoying free meals, when they probably wouldn’t have eaten during that period of time, and then being active and coming to game is an amazing feeling.
“Truly, you’ve got to look at yourself as a football club. I’ve said this ever since I became a manager – ‘what am I in the game for? Are we trying to open doors for people?’
“From myself and James [Lawson], our driving force behind it is to really give these people a better life.
“If we can help the kids to make a closer circle of friends, and become socially better, building up their skills, it’ll help them later in life.
“The biggest and best clubs are built on solid foundations.”
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/