Brackley Town was named Football Foundation Community Club of the Year at the National Game Awards 2019. Chairman Francis Oliver was presented with the award at a celebratory luncheon held at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge.
Previous winners of the prestigious non-league award were Dulwich Hamlet in 2016, Sutton United in 2017 and Lewes last year.
“It is a huge surprise to win such a coveted award but a nice surprise!” said Francis Oliver. “The club aims to be at the heart of our community in Brackley and it is lovely to receive such high profile, national recognition. Thanks to the Football Foundation and Buildbase who sponsor the award and of course to everyone at the club who have worked so hard to make Brackley Town the Community Club of the Year.”
The work of the club in the community was recognised at the awards ceremony. Of particular commendation was the Saints Community Project which started in 2015 and has grown! The project was awarded “The Most Innovative Community Project” at the National League annual conference at Celtic Manor in 2016 and has gone from strength to strength. Supported by a grant from the National League Trust, local businesses and year-round fund-raising, the project provides a weekly event for vulnerable and elderly people in the town. It has become a key part of the town’s social care provision and is now promoted by local authority social services, care homes in the area and the Town Council. People meet at the club for activities and lunch every Wednesday and we know that for many lonely or vulnerable people it is a highlight of the week and greatly valued. Since its inception the project has gained many volunteer helpers, many directly recruited from the football club – supporters who simply want to contribute and give something back. The panto has become an annual fixture with the directors, players and Kevin Wilkin taking on leading roles much to everyone’s delight!
An important part of Brackley Town Football Club’s vision is for the club to be central to our community. While our focus is on Brackley and surrounding villages we want to look further afield as well. An unusual connection through football has brought the club into contact with an orphanage in Africa. We are fostering this relationship to benefit both the children there as well as our community here. We can all be the richer for the experience.
The Bridge of Hope Orphanage is in the Rukungiri district of south-west Uganda, just off a dirt track near the main city of Jinga. According to UNICEF one quarter of all children in Uganda live in extreme poverty. The Bridge of Hope Orphanage and school were established in 2008.
Through the generosity of supporters and people in the town the club has sent out football boots and kit which for the first time is equipping children to play football and to participate in organised games.
Closer to home, the club works in local schools through its community coaching team and this brings large numbers to junior coaching at the club on Saturday mornings, a thriving girls’ Wildcat team and, at the other end of the age spectrum, walking football which meets weekly and stays for coffee afterwards. A walking football team has even travelled to Portugal to compete in an international tournament two years running to take the name of Brackley Town to fields afar.
The club’s charity fundraising efforts this year has focused on supporting a local charity that supports families of children with cancer. A recent match-day against FC United was dedicated to the charity, The Henry Allen Trust. The day was supported by patron Emily Haig, well known soprano and soloist who has performed the national anthem at FA Cup finals. It raised vital funds and raised awareness of the great work the charity provides in the community.
“The growth of the club over the years has been wonderful to see,” Francis Oliver said. “Attendances at matches are now well over 600, an increase many times over, and we are a real family club working hard to be an important part of the fabric of our community. Thank you to the sponsors, The Football Foundation, and the National Game Awards for this recognition.”