By Paul Martin
Ramsgate FC chairman James Lawson has hailed a summer activity programme following its ‘incredible impact’ on some of the area’s most deprived children.
Hundreds of youngsters from across Thanet have been flocking to the WW Martin community stadium, complete with its newly-installed 3G surface, throughout the summer holidays to enjoy six hours of coaching per day, along with a hot meal at lunchtime.
The club have been providing the service to children eligible for free school meals, inspired by England star Marcus Rashford’s campaigning on the issue, and Lawson is delighted to have seen the club further embed themselves in the community in recent weeks.
“Coming out of lockdown, there was a huge issue with kids not having been active,” Lawson said.
“There are also concerns about what they eat in the holidays, so we thought we’d put on the activity days, including food, for any child on free school meals.
“We’ve been putting them on four days a week and we’ve had over 100 kids every day. The impact on the children has been incredible.
“We’ve had about 200 kids there all through the summer on different courses and a youth system with 1,000 children in it, so the 3G surface has been brilliant in that respect.
“We’ve been able to open it up to the whole youth section and wider community and it has really helped with retention.
“These kids coming to our activity days are absolutely wowed by the stadium, they are loving it. And it means they are retained – had we been in a park, numbers may have dwindled.”
The Rams’ ability to make a difference was boosted by a grant from the Trident Community Foundation, established by Pitching In – a multi-million-pound grassroots sport investment programme set up by Ladbrokes with the support of its owner Entain.
TCF grants ranging from £1,000 to £5,000 have so far been awarded to over 30 clubs across the Pitching In Isthmian, Southern and Northern Premier Leagues and Ramsgate used theirs to good effect.
“The funding went towards getting a team of our coaches into schools before the summer holidays,” Lawson said.
“That allowed us to build trust with the schools, parents and children and helped us run extra PE sessions after the pandemic, which all built towards getting the kids active in the summer holidays.
“Ultimately, the grant helped enable us to feed and provide activities for over 100 of the most deprived children in the area.”
The 3G surface has proved a gamechanger for the Pitching In Isthmian League South East Division outfit on and off the field, with the club already seeing a return on their £750,000 investment.
“A grass pitch is almost a hallowed surface, whereas the 3G can be used by all,” he said. “We’ve also noticed a real upturn in the quality of players we can sign. We’ve brought in Jordan Chiedozie, probably our biggest ever signing, and we have several players who have come out of professional academies.
“It’s incredible what a 3G surface can open up for a club.”
Funding for the scheme has also been given by RiverOak Strategic Partners to enable it to continue in October.
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/