Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

More than just a Football Club – Dunc Chisholm

Can you remember the time when we used to position ourselves at the front door of our homes and applaud the good work being done to support the public. Buildings being illuminated in blue to celebrate our NHS and checking in on neighbours was becoming a daily ritual.

Has it all disappeared and are we all just looking at self and how we just get through it ourselves?  Are we back to expecting lack of service, higher costs and lower engagement at every turn?

I think we have all accepted that money, budgets and services are restricted and with this restriction, hardship is here and there is a lot more to come over the coming days, weeks and months.

Or are we forgetting (ignoring) the amazing opportunities and work that is being delivered in our communities by organisations who simply go over and above to deliver them?

In the world of professional football, clubs often serve as more than just sports teams; they can be crucial community anchors, supporting public sector services and facilities. Ross County FC, a relatively small football club located in Dingwall, Scotland, is a prime example of how a football club can make a significant impact on its community. This blog highlights how Ross County FC supports its community and how this support can be leveraged to bolster public sector services and facilities.

Youth Development and Education
Ross County FC boasts a robust youth academy that provides local children with opportunities to pursue their dreams of becoming professional footballers. By nurturing young talent from the region, the club not only promotes physical activity but also instils important values, such as discipline, teamwork and group mentoring.

Moreover, the club has recognised the importance of education for its young players. To balance football and academics, Ross County FC offers educational programs, helping students excel in their studies. This approach aligns with public sector efforts to improve educational outcomes and decrease dropout rates.

Community Engagement
The football club actively engages with the local community through various initiatives, including school visits, football clinics, and community outreach programs. By connecting with people of all ages, Ross County FC serves as a bridge between the community and public sector services.

This engagement is particularly beneficial in tackling social issues like obesity and isolation, as it encourages residents to embrace an active lifestyle and fosters a sense of belonging. It also opens avenues for collaboration with local health services and social support programs.

Economic Impact
As a community-based club, Ross County FC contributes significantly to the local economy. Home games attract thousands of fans, generating revenue for local businesses. The club also employs local staff and contributes to job creation. This economic stability can indirectly benefit public sector services through increased tax revenue and reduced dependence on welfare programs.

Health and Well-being
Football is a powerful tool for promoting health and well-being. By supporting Ross County FC, the local community gains access to a range of physical and mental health benefits. Whether through active participation or as spectators, residents can engage in a healthier lifestyle.

Public sector services such as the NHS could partner with the club to encourage physical activity, organize health awareness campaigns, and provide health check-ups to fans. Such collaborations can help in the prevention and early detection of health issues. While promoting good health within specific demographics.

Community Infrastructure
Ross County FC’s presence also influences the development of community infrastructure. The stadium serves as a focal point for local events, not just football matches. By supporting the upkeep and expansion of the stadium, the club indirectly supports the improvement of public facilities, making the community more attractive for residents and visitors alike. From charity to events to the running of health promotions

Social Inclusion
Football has a unique ability to bring people together, transcending social, cultural, and economic barriers. Ross County FC’s activities provide a platform for social inclusion, enabling individuals from all walks of life to come together and celebrate a shared passion.

Public sector services can leverage this inclusive environment to address issues related to social cohesion and discrimination. Collaboration with the club can help create awareness and build stronger, more inclusive communities.

Volunteering and Skills Development
Ross County FC also promotes volunteering within the community. By offering opportunities for individuals to contribute to the club, it helps them develop new skills and experiences. This can be a valuable resource for public sector services, which often rely on volunteers to support various programs and initiatives.

The skills acquired through volunteering at the club can be transferred to roles within public sector services, enhancing the quality-of-service delivery.

Youth Crime Prevention Personal Dev Programme
Ross County Foundations Personal Development programme is a prime example of working smarter. Coaches/Mentors working directly with youngsters who are on the edge of disengagement from education while being with crime.

Involving young people in positive activities, such as playing football or attending matches, can be a powerful tool in preventing youth involvement in crime. Ross County FC’s youth programs and community outreach efforts can play a crucial role in steering youngsters away from criminal activities, supporting law enforcement and social services in crime prevention efforts. The measure of success is in the retention figures which currently sit at 91%.

Environmental Responsibility
Ross County FC has been proactive in adopting environmentally sustainable practices. The club’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint aligns with public sector efforts to combat climate change. By setting an example, the club encourages the community to embrace eco-friendly practices, which can ultimately support public sector environmental initiatives.

Ross County FC’s involvement in the community goes far beyond the football pitch ‘More than just a football club’.  The club is a vital component of the Highlands are and particularly the Dingwall and surrounding area community. The club offers support that extends into various other areas, including education, health, and social well-being. These efforts can significantly benefit public sector services and facilities, creating a more robust and cohesive community. As a model of community engagement, Ross County FC serves as a shining example of how a local football club can become a pillar of support for the broader public good.

Where else can clubs like RCFC with its stadium and facilities be supported by business and government in the pursuit of supporting the community? With public buildings crumbling, surely the option is to utilise club’s facilities that lie in darkness 13 out of 14 days. How and where can the public sector engage with clubs for the greater good? Can hospital clinics be run within the stadium suites? Can health promotion be run on match day? Warm and safe environments for Community Cafes be created within stadiums that already cater for 1000’s of people, utilising the positives of sport along with its health benefits to enthuse communities.

Surely, there is a huge opportunity for thinking outside the box, just a little. Who is going to step above the parapet and think like this? Who is willing to speak, support and work together?

Dunc Chisholm is Head of Commercial and Foundation at Ross County Football Club