By James Reid
Stuart Andrew swapped the grandeur of the World Cup for the grit of grassroots on Saturday, as the MP visited Nethermoor Park to see Lewis Whitham’s last-minute winner fire Guiseley past Morpeth Town.
The Sports Minister wore the rainbow One Love armband as he watched England beat Wales 3-0 in Qatar last Tuesday but was back to non-league just days later to watch the Pitching In Northern Premier League Premier Division clash.
Andrew, 51, learned about the role volunteers play in keeping the Lions roaring on and off the pitch and hailed their impact after seeing it first-hand.
“I was incredibly impressed to see the work that volunteers do to ensure things run smoothly on match days and even enjoyed pitching in myself,” he said.
“Guiseley AFC is rooted in our town's history and it is always humbling to see all the brilliant things they do for our community.”
The Lions have had a mixed season on the pitch, with Saturday’s win against Morpeth their first in the league since mid-October, but it is off the pitch where they have been making their mark.
The club have a host of youngsters involved in work experience, something general operations manager Trudi Hannaford believes is a crucial part of being at the heart of the local community.
“We’ve got various young people coming down, mostly to help sell programmes,” added Hannaford.
“Some have family members who come down or are supporters themselves, but increasingly we’ve been approached by young people to help with their Duke of Edinburgh Award.
“If people go to a non-league club, they can get involved in a variety of things. We can offer inroads that are quite safe.
“By finding what you’re interested in, there’s an opportunity to get some valuable work experience, be part of a team, and work on skills you’re not aware of.”
On Andrew’s visit, Hannaford added: “Stuart was very supportive and very interested in what we were doing with volunteers and how we are engaging young people into volunteering.
“I think it’s great that local MPs come along and see what their local community looks like and it’s good for people to see that your MP isn’t just someone you see in the paper doing a photo opportunity.”
Recruiting volunteers can be a struggle non-league clubs but Hannaford says the task has become easier since the launch of the Pitching In Volunteer Hub.
The online portal is a central site for all Step 3 and 4 clubs to post advertisements for open vacancies, and Guiseley have already benefitted from the new system.
“Having the Volunteer Hub has been helpful and we’ve already recruited one of the media team from it,” said Hannaford.
“Now when people contact us, we say go and look at the Hub and let us know what you’re interested in. It’s great we can focus them to specific roles and responsibilities.”
Andrew added: “I’d encourage anyone local to get stuck in with the club and check out the volunteer hub for any available roles.”
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/