BT has connected 70 grassroots football clubs across the UK with broadband (Wi-Fi) and digital skills training, as clubs and their communities look to recover from the COVID-19 crisis
The work is part of BT’s role as lead partner with each of the four home nation football associations – The FA, Scottish FA, Irish FA and FA of Wales.
Working with the FAs, BT identified the key areas of the game that needed the most support and developed the transformational 4-3-3 football strategy:
4 – to support the 4 home nations in partnership with each football association
3 – supporting the 3 football communities most in need of support – disability and para, grassroots, and women’s football
3 – 3 goals for BT: to develop new innovation and technology in football; new opportunities to promote digital and skills initiatives; and a new generation of girls and women to participate in football
The partnership includes a commitment to provide grassroots clubs across the four nations with a package of free products and services, including broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity. The aim is to support grassroots clubs in their role as hubs for their local community.
The connectivity will help the football clubs set up things like free guest Wi-Fi for supporters, taking wireless card payments and video streaming of matches and training sessions.
BT will also work with the connected clubs to help make them hubs for digital and employability skills support in the local community, through BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme, which aims to help 10 million people make the most of life in the digital world.
Despite the coronavirus restrictions, BT has been able to connect 70 grassroots clubs across the UK, with the aim of reaching 100 by the end of the summer.
One of the ‘Connected Clubs’ already connected by BT is Horsforth St Margaret’s FC in Leeds.
Ange Emery, Club Secretary of Horsforth St Margaret’s FC, said: “I’m really pleased that Horsforth St Margaret’s FC is part of this initiative. Grassroots football is so important to the children, their families and our community.
“Now that we are a BT Connected Club, we will be looking at reaching out to more of the community to see how we can help with their digital skills, whether that be homework clubs, help writing CVs, searching for jobs or teaching the elderly new digital skills.”
Another connected club is Deveronvale FC in Banff, Scotland, who have already taken advantage of BT’s connectivity. In December 2020, the club live streamed their Scottish Cup game against Camelon Juniors FC, so fans could watch their team while restrictions didn’t allow them to attend, paying £5, and generating crucial matchday revenue for the club.
Kevin Stewart, Chairman of Deveronvale FC, said: “We are delighted to be partnering through the BT Connected Clubs initiative. It not only reduces costs to the club, but also opens offerings like the guest Wi-Fi, which we didn’t have before, and the introduction of our contactless payment system and booking system.
“The connectivity has already allowed us to do things like live stream our Scottish Cup match so fans could watch at home. This went down very well with fans who weren’t able to attend the match in person. It’s also enabled our personal trainers to live stream fitness classes to our members, which we’re going to continue to do, as the club moves forward.
“As a community hub, we’ll also be using the technology and skills to support local families with things like improving health and wellbeing and tackling unemployment.”
James Kendall, Director of Football Development at The FA said: “It’s great that our partnership with BT is helping us combine football and technology, making sure that grassroots clubs remain hubs for communities up and down the country.
“This past year has been some of the most challenging times not just for football, but across society, so this kind of support is hugely welcome as we look to get grassroots football back on its feet. We know that grassroots football has the power to change people’s lives for the better and these clubs will have a big role to play in bringing people back together and making a difference.”
Pete Jeavons, Marketing Communications Director at BT, said: “Supporting grassroots football is an integral part of our 4-3-3 football strategy. We know how important grassroots football clubs are across the country, so by linking them to the latest technology, connectivity and digital skills, we can help build their role as community hubs.
“People up and down the country are desperate to return to their local clubs, so we hope this will give these first connected clubs and their communities a small lift.”
BT created a one-off special TV show to celebrate the importance of grassroots football, as clubs begin to re-open. The hour-long ‘Grassroots Football Show’ has been aired on BT Sport and is also available to watch via BT Sport’s YouTube channel.
In partnership with the four home nation football associations, the programme was hosted at Horsforth St Margaret’s FC and presented by BT Sport duo Jules Breach & Robbie Savage. It featured elite players from each of the home nations’ senior men’s teams, including England’s Mason Mount, Northern Ireland brothers Jonny & Corry Evans, Wales’ 100-cap hero Chris Gunter and Scotland duo Craig Gordon and Stephen O’Donnell.
In related news, BT is also currently joining the English football clubs in a social media boycott this weekend as part of a stand against online abuse.
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