“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
The tragedies which have afflicted Merseyside football since Bill Shankly uttered those words, surely tongue in cheek, have robbed them of their potency.
But maybe Shanks did have a point.
And it has taken the club he’d draw the curtains on if they were playing at the bottom of his garden to prove the wisdom of his words.
Like Army veteran Dave Curtis.
“I came down to a coffee morning at Goodison Park,” he said “and, I say it all the time, but that day going there, I think it saved my life.”
Like bi-polar sufferer Colin Dolan.
“My life was transformed by Everton in the Community. Without them, without a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t be here.”
Or high-achieving infantry soldier John Brady: “If it was not for Everton, I am not 100 per cent sure I would be here now. It was that bad …”
And Everton don’t draw the curtains on anybody.
Derek Goodwin is a Liverpool fan.
And he said: “Before I got involved in the programme I tried to take my life on a weekly basis.
“When people see my tattoo they say ‘How can you have a Liverpool tattoo and wear an Everton shirt? That’s horrible.’ My answer to them is ‘It wasn’t Liverpool who saved my life, it was Everton.’ “
When lives haven’t needed saving, Everton have also changed the lives of so many people.
Thousands upon thousands of lives have been transformed.
The vehicle for these incredible interventions has been the club’s award winning charity, Everton in the Community.
It is 30 years old this year, engages annually with more than 20,000 people and boasts 125 staff.
EitC as it is popularly known has come a long way since former Blues favourites Duncan McKenzie and Alan Whittle were asked to front a government sponsored scheme in February 1988 called “The Community Programme”, initially to foster closer links between football and the local community.
Funded by the Manpower Services Commission, the PFA and the Football League, it kicked off delivering coaching sessions in local schools before expanding to develop tea dances for the disabled and the under-privileged.
Few foresaw what a well meaning community programme would become.
There from the very beginning was Blues chairman Bill Kenwright.
At this season’s dinner to celebrate the programme’s 30th birthday, he said: “When I was invited to join the Board toward the end of the 80s, there was much to do on the pitch, largely because the European ban on English football had hit no club harder than Everton – but also off the field the city itself seemed to be slowly coming out of a decade of uncertainty and I wanted Everton to play a role in any uplift.
“The PFA and the Football League were backing a government sponsored scheme to foster links between football and local people and I grasped the opportunity with both hands as the club set up its own community programme.
“It wasn’t easy. As always on Merseyside, the willingness was obvious and the possibilities were huge – but, in truth, the money wasn’t.
“Our initial focus was on ethnic minorities, youngsters, women, special needs groups and older citizens.
“Neil Dewsnip was appointed Community Manager, later to be followed by Ted Sutton.
“The Community programme quickly picked up pace and grew to a team of nine, including Alan Johnson who I appointed immediately after he came to discuss racist chanting at Everton games.”
‘Sunbed Ted’ and ‘Johnno’, as the dynamic duo were affectionately christened, became prime movers in the early expansion of Everton in the Community – operating from a portacabin in the Park End car park of Goodison Park.
And for more than a decade that’s where Everton in the Community remained – doing invaluable work with the people of Merseyside, but on a modest scale.
Then, as Mr Kenwright so colourfully explained: “Little Miss Dynamite appeared!”
Then chief executive Robert Elstone invited lifelong Blue Denise Barrett-Baxendale to swap a leadership role in the education sector to head a transformation strategy for Everton in the Community.
It was a risk, but Denise explained: “I wouldn’t have been able to face my dad if he thought I had walked away from an opportunity to make any part of Everton greater than it was…”
Boy did she fulfil her dad’s remit.
Denise’s father had told his little girl: “Denise, you were the first in our family to go to university, you were the first in our family to get a Masters, you were the first in our family to get a PHD … but when you get that job at Everton…”
She got that job – and hit the ground running.
Within years she had secured secure £4.5million worth of government and business investment to deliver a traineeship programme which offered young people access to qualifications and employment.
And she didn’t stop there.
“There’ll be no slowing down,” she told the Echo in 2014. “We are looking at collecting wider member of the Everton family to form a super-community project, and we’re developing new sites all the time.
“Our aspiration is that there will be an EITC hub in every community and we’re well on our way towards achieving that.”
In the 30th year of Everton in the Community, we look at 30 of the club charity’s greatest hits.
There are more … much, much more, but on the 30th anniversary 30 seems like a nice round figure to celebrate.
Everton in the Community
1. Home is Where The Heart is
Perhaps the highest profile of all Everton in the Community’s initiatives.
Two years ago, Under-23 manager David Unsworth revealed plans to raise £230,000 in order to buy and operate a house, close to Goodison Park, to give 16 to 23-year-olds who have fallen on hard times, or perhaps fallen out of the care system, a place to stay in Liverpool.
In order to raise awareness Unsworth and the young footballers under his charge slept out at Goodison Park – on a night the temperatures plummeted to minus four!
At least it didn’t rain!
“The sleepout was a tough night,” said Unsworth “but we were all wrapped up with layers of clothing on.
“There are people out there doing this for real and that is the scary thing. We wanted to give all those people on the streets of Liverpool a helping hand and get them off the streets and somewhere safe where they can get back on their feet again.”
Everton in the Community were successful in their efforts.
The project has now supported 11 young people since January.
But the support doesn’t end there.
The club also has a new initiative planned with Liverpool Mutual Homes to provide an exit strategy for the house as the club looks to access further accommodation for young people to move onto when they are capable of managing a tenancy.
2. Pass On The Memories
In October 2015 The Mirror carried the following story: “Over two decades have passed, but Bob Pendleton remembers his first glimpse of Wayne Rooney like it was yesterday.
“On Long Lane playing fields in Aintree, Pendleton was headed for pitch two to collect some unpaid referees’ fees from ‘Big Nev’, the coach of Copplehouse Colts.
“With £4.50’s worth of change in his pocket, Pendleton chose to hang around and watch the Under-11s in action. It would prove to be the best decision of his career.
“For as well as being the secretary of the Walton and Kirkdale junior league, Pendleton also scouted youngsters for Everton.
“Unbeknownst to him, he had come across the young footballer who would go on to become England’s greatest goalscorer.”
Three years on and memories are increasingly precious to Pendleton after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
But he is being supported by Everton’s Pass On the Memories programme, launched in January 2013 to support people living with dementia and their carers.
As well as providing vital respite and support for carers, Everton in the Community is also working towards having Goodison Park recognised as the first Dementia-friendly stadium in England by the Alzheimer’s Society – through the delivery of awareness training to a range of front line staff.
3. World Cup winning Disability programme
Steve Johnson’s life was altered in devastating fashion when he lost his leg in a freak five-a-side accident.
Rather than wallow in his misfortune, Steve turned to amputee football and turned his life around.
Three years after his injury Steve was called-up to play for the England team where he won more than 130 international caps, captaining the team for more than 20 years and winning three World Cups.
He was crowned World Amputee Footballer of the Year, became a Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2008, and in 2003 headed up Everton’s disability programme where he used his own first-hand experiences of playing sports with a disability to provide football and physical activity opportunities to thousands of disabled children and adults each year.
Crowned the Pride of Merseyside in 2012 at the Liverpool Echo’s Pride of Merseyside Award, Steve and his team have made Everton’s disability programme one of the most influential and iconic disability sports programmes in the world.
4. Another Everton First
Everton’s list of firsts is long and formidable – from being the first club to stage an FA Cup final, issue a match programme, win the original League Championship trophy, install undersoil heating and win a penalty shoot-out in the European Cup.
But that’s all on the pitch.
Off it Everton became the first football club in the country to be awarded government funding to open a Free School, which now supports up to 200 pupils a year at its base on Spellow Lane.
A ‘Free School’ is not run by the local council which enables school staff to have more control over how they run things.
The idea of Everton forming a Free School was formulated by Denise Barrett-Baxendale after realising that whatever issues local people were having – housing, employment, health etc – education was at the core of it.
She believed that if the club can intervene at that level then many issues which emerge further down the line will not arise.
In September 2015 Blues boss Roberto Martinez opened a new £4.2m facility on Spellow Lane.
5. Having a Heart
Everton have been hosting free heart screening events since 2013 – and have already identified 10 youngsters with potentially significant heart defects and 42 with heart-related problems.
In 2016 the Blues received £10,000 from Medicash to carry out three further screening events in association with Vital Signs Foundation (VSF).
The club has now held six screenings, screening over 500 15-35-year-olds in total.
6. Bowel Cancer Figures Slashed
Everton, the district, used to be the second highest ward in the city (out of 30) for bowel cancer mortality.
Following an EitC intervention programme with Liverpool Community Health, and more recently Aintree Hospital, Everton has dropped down to 16th highest five years later … which is below the city wide average.
Blues staff and volunteers carried out a series of ‘brief interventions’ across the ward, calling into shops, betting shops and even barbers to engage with members of the public and distribute information about bowel cancer awareness.
The message was clearly taken on board.
7. Life Savers
In August 2009, Lance Corporal Dave Curtis was eight days into his deployment in Afghanistan when his life changed forever.
“A suicide bomber drove into the back of the vehicle I was driving and blew himself up,” he says.
“I had a lot of survivor’s guilt because someone only two feet away from me lost their life instantly.
“It was a horrible day and a day that ended my career in the army and nearly ended my life.”
David suffered serious physical injuries. He broke his back in two places as well as his shoulder in several places.
But it was the mental scars that were more difficult to deal with.
“I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said. “I’ll have nightmares and I was arguing with my wife, my mum and dad. I was snapping at everyone.
“My family were trying to support me but I was pushing them away. I didn’t want anyone close to me.
“I was at rock bottom.”
At that point, David was told about Everton in the Community’s “Inside Right” programme.
It works with ex-service personnel at risk of developing or who have mental health problems.
The impact was immediate.
“I came down to a coffee morning at Goodison Park and, I say it all the time, but that day going there, I think it saved my life,” he said.
“There were lads there straightaway telling me that it can get better, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“From that first day, I knew that was where I needed to be.”
David now passes on his advice and experiences to fellow veterans as a project co-ordinator for Knowsley Veteran’s Hub, which is building on the success of the Inside Right scheme.
It offers a range of engagement tools and support mechanisms to improve the lives of veterans and their families.
“Nine times out of 10 I’ll speak to a veteran or a family member and we’ve been through similar situations,” he says. “I’ll say to them, ‘I am able to support you.’
“By doing that, it makes me feel better about myself. It takes away any negative thoughts I might have. I love doing my job every day but it’s also my therapy.
“I’ve always said that Everton in the Community saved my life. It means the world to me.”
8. Crime Fighters
For more than a decade now Everton have developed trusting relationships with young people living in areas with high crime rates.
It is part of a joint project that has been awarded £700,000 from the Home Office’s Early Intervention Fund to prevent serious violence, tackle gang culture and protect young people from exploitation.
It targets young people aged 8-19, particularly focusing on areas in South Sefton, North and Central Liverpool, Huyton and the L8 area.
Led by Everton in the Community and overseen by the Police Commissioner, the project aims to identify and gain the trust of young people and engage them in voluntary activities at schools, youth clubs and centres.
Young people at risk of engaging in criminality will not speak to law enforcement agencies. But they WILL speak to football clubs.
9. Asylum Seeker Sessions
The Blues run weekly coaching sessions every Friday at the Community Hub for asylum seekers and refugees.
Everton have an ongoing relationship with Asylum Link, Refugee Action and Red Cross who refer asylum seekers in the city onto the club to be supported by its programmes.
Yoga sessions are also offered in partnership with the Red Cross.
10. Tackling The Blues
Tackling the Blues is a sports based programme targeting children and young people who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing, mental illness.
Active Blues, which is funded by the Premier League, helps inactive men aged 35–50 to become active and improve their mental wellbeing.
Such was the success of both schemes a government Health Select Committee visited the club in March 2017, and highlighted the Blues’ schemes in a Health Select Committee Paper called “Suicide Prevention”, holding up Everton as a example in the field.
11. Globe Trotting Coaches
Premier Skills is a Premier League initiative, usuing football to develop a brighter future for young people around the world.
But Everton staff have been supporting the Premier League in the delivery of Premier Skills since 2007.
The programme currently operates in 19 countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas from Afghanistan to Zambia.
To date, 20,027 Premier Skills coaches and referees have reached more than 1.6 million children and young people.
Everton’s Health and Wellbeing Manager, Johnnie Garside, has delivered Premier Skills all over the world in countries as diverse as Singapore, South Korea, Africa, Dubai, Vietnam and Malaysia.
One of Johnnie’s success stories is Kelvin Chee, whose team in Malaysia has recently been chosen as the Best Grassroots Club at the inaugural Asian Football Confederation Special Grassroots Awards.
Johnnie trained Kelvin as a Premier Skills Coach Educator in 2010 and he has since supported him as a community coach at further Premier Skills sessions as well as being invited to Goodison to shadow Johnnie and his colleague across EitC.
12. The Return of National Service!
Well not exactly …..
The National Citizen Service is a project open to all 15-17-year-olds in England and helps them build their skills for work and life whilst taking on new challenges and meeting new friends.
It is a government funded initiative that brings together young people from different backgrounds and helps them develop greater confidence, self-awareness and responsibility.
The last 12 months has seen almost 500 young people from across Liverpool and Knowsley participate with the NCS programme.
These 500 individuals volunteered 31,560 hours of voluntary work in their local communities and raised over £15,000 for local charities through a variety of fundraising activities.
Everton have been heavily involved helping young people through their NCS programme.
13. Cruyff Courts
There are only six Cruyff Courts in England.
Two are in Liverpool, and one is an Everton in the Community initiative, opened in May 2017 by then Blues boss Ronald Koeman.
The community facility was opened to provide children in the local neighbourhood with a safe place to play sports.
Koeman said: “It is really fitting that Everton are involved in this project because I think we are number one when it comes to football clubs looking after their communities.
“It is a proud day for me because I was really close with Johan Cruyff and am really proud to be involved with this project and the Johan Cruyff Foundation. Johan would have enjoyed today, he knew what Everton are doing and how they are involved with all these projects.”
14. Derek Temple Still Stepping Up
The man who scored the winning goal in the 1966 FA Cup final is still accepting responsibility half-a-century on.
Temple agreed to undergo a simple test in the Blues’ Brian Labone Suite for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA), a condition responsible for two per cent of all deaths in males aged over 65 years, claiming 6,000 lives a year.
A simple screening test can reduce the mortality rate by 50 per cent, and Temple put himself forward to promote awareness of the screening sessions.
Everton in the Community increased the screening uptake by a staggering 4,000% with men aged 65-and-over in comparison to the NHS.
15. Papal Blessing
In October 2016, such was the growing influence of Everton in the Community, the charity’s Executive Chair Denise Barrett-Baxendale was invited to the Vatican City to meet the Pope!
Denise joined representatives from the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee and a number of the world’s top athletes at the inaugural Papal Conference on Sport at the Service of Humanity.
Dr Barrett-Baxendale said: “It was an absolute honour and a privilege to be invited to share the story of Everton in the Community with some of the world’s most prominent business and faith leaders.”
16. Safe Hands
The national average for young offenders failing to re-offend is a worryingly low 27 per cent.
Participants in Everton’s ‘Safe Hands’ projects for young offenders is a staggeringly high 80 per cent!
Young people listen to messages from their favourite football clubs.
Launched in 2012 with funding from the Big Lottery Fund, Safe Hands is now funded by the Premier League and is a youth engagement project that targets young offenders in the Merseyside area.
It aims to help them integrate them back into society after leaving secure care by offering them opportunities that they may never have considered as options before.
Since its launch in April 2012, the programme has achieved an 80 percent non re-offending rate among participants, compared to the national average of 27 percent. The average persistent young offender costs the government £80,000 per year and £300,000 over their criminal career, the non-reoffending rate through Safe Hands would save the government £36million whilst creating economically active citizens.
EitC developed the first of its kind Masters Degree Programme (MSc Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health) with Edge Hill University, which is now in its fourth year.
18. The Everton Family
Everton’s entire first team squad signed a commitment pledge to give their ongoing support to the charity.
19. Gizza Job
Since 2009 Everton 4 Employment has engaged with almost 900 local people through a series of employability courses, enterprise projects and training programmes.
Working across the Liverpool City Region, Everton 4 Employment works closely with partners such as Job Centre Plus, Mersey Care NHS Trust, Premier League, VOLA, Remploy, Merseyside District Councils, Schools, Colleges, Universities, Housing Associations and Training Providers.
20. Socially Responsible
Everton in the Community have a representative on the ‘Institute for Social Responsibility’ (formerly the Institute of Public Policy and Professional Practice) led by Edge Hill University with international representatives.
21. Everton Apprentices
Everton in the Community’s Apprenticeship programme was rated the 2017-18 Best Training Provider within the Liverpool City Region.
EitC has been delivering Apprenticeships since 2012 and the results of 2018’s ‘Learner Satisfaction Survey’, carried out by the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), saw the club’s official charity ranked in the top three per cent of training providers nationwide!
22. £8million investment!
Everton’s work in and around the L4 area has seen a massive £8million investment into community facilities in one of the poorest wards in Europe (once all buildings on the campus are developed).
It has converted derelict buildings in the streets surrounding Goodison Park and dedicated them to its charity’s community provision, its participants and the local residents.
These buildings will ensure that the heartbeat of the club remains in its local community and will form an Everton legacy long after the football club moves to a new stadium.
Everton have also purchased five derelict houses on Goodison Road (directly opposite the club’s Main Stand) and are bringing them back to life to put pride and value back into the area.
23. Ministerial Backing
Such has been the success of Everton in the Community that many government ministers have travelled to Merseyside to observe the Blues’ work.
Lifelong Blue Andy Burnham needed no encouragement. But he has been joined ny Norman Lamb, John Bercow, Dame Sue Owen (Permanent Secretary for Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in case you didn’t know) and the Blues have been referenced as an example of Best Practice at Whitehall.
24. Quarter of a century of Charitable Status
On September 10, 2003, Everton Football in the Community was officially granted charitable status. The rest, as they say, is history.
It came from an application by Ted Sutton and David Connor to register Football in the Community as an official charity.
It was a long and arduous task but one that meant that the community scheme could continue to grow as well as access external funding to develop new programmes that would specifically tackle social issues in Merseyside.
25. The People’s Place
A permanent mental health facility, called the People’s Place, is planned for the shadows of Goodison Park.
Fund-raising started this season and plans are in place for the facility to sit next to the people’s hub on Spellow Lane, just over the road from Goodison Park.
As part of the campaign Everton has also made a firm commitment to equip all its staff with an understanding of mental health through accredited training; educating them on mental health and how best to identify if someone is struggling with mental health issues and where and how to signpost them to support.
Manager Marco Silva said: “Since the first day I arrived at the club, everyone talked to me about the Everton Family.
“We are more than just a club, we are a family. We want to keep creating this fantastic connection between us and our fans and all of the community. We want to support them, and we want to give them something back.
26. Freedom of the City
Everton in the Community was granted the Freedom of the City – Liverpool’s highest civic honour – in May before the final home match of the season against Southampton.
Denise Barrett-Baxendale said: “It’s just overwhelming.
“It’s the most prestigious award we could receive from our city – and to receive it after 30 years of doing everything we can for the people of Merseyside in the name of Everton Football Club, here at Goodison Park, on the last home game of the season, doesn’t get better.
“But we can’t ever show any signs of slowing down.”
27. The Blue Mile
Everton became the first football club in the Premier League to employ a Neighbourhood Manager to enable and assist the club to become a better neighbour to the 10,000 residents living in the Blue Mile.
Since The People’s Hub opened in January 2017 over 25,000 people come through the club’s doors.
And Everton’s work with local businesses and the city council has seen more businesses opened than closed for the first time in 10 years.
28. Just the Ticket
As part of the above scheme the Blues have donated over 1,500 matchday tickets to neighbours and also developed a twice-weekly Youth Zone which offers local young people the chance to play and develop in a safe and nurturing environment.
29. Award Winners
The accolades handed to Everton in the Community are too numerous to mention.
But just a month ago the scheme was voted ‘Best Football Community Scheme – Premier League’ at the Football Business Awards in London.
30. And they’re not slowing down!
Since Denise Barrett-Baxendale was appointed Chief Executive of Everton Football Club, the reins of Everton in the Community were handed to the club’s popular and highly respected Director of Marketing and Communications, Richard Kenyon.
Richard is now also Chief Executive of Everton in the Community, and he said: “The success of Everton in the Community has been down to the drive, dedication, determination and bravery of Denise Barrett-Baxendale and her staff over many years.
“It has been enabled, of course, by the vision and unwavering support of our chairman over the last three decades.
“Through this our charity has been able to tackle some of Liverpool’s most serious social issues head-on and make a profoundly positive impact on hundreds of thousands of people in and beyond our local community.
“Over the five years I served as a Trustee, I was regularly humbled and inspired by the charity’s achievements and the personal stories from our participants many of whom have thanked us for changing, and even saving, their lives.
“It is an honour for me to be given the opportunity to help build on this success as we take Everton in the Community forward together into 2019.”
Thirty years …. and counting.
Many happy returns Everton in the Community!
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