Rams FC chairman James Lawson talks about October Holiday Activity and Food programme and new junior college plans

Ramsgate FC chairman James Lawson

Ramsgate Football Club is leading the way with its work to improve life in the Thanet community.

The club has pitched in to everything from cooking and delivering hundreds of pizzas to stranded lorry drivers at Manston airport last year, raising more than £10,000 for charity through The Great Ram Run and providing Easter and Summer activity and food programmes for disadvantaged isle youngsters.

The Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme is generally funded by government and aims to address food poverty, inactivity, isolation and learning loss by children, through activities and the provision of a hot meal and healthy snacks.

Ramsgate FC took part in this year’s programme after building trust with parents, children and teachers through their community officer providing free PE activities at local schools.

Thanet’s HAF programme was aimed at children in receipt of benefits-related free school meals; from Year 1 to Year 11 (age 4-16 years).

But the next round of government funded HAF schemes is not until the Christmas school holidays.

A successful summer programme with Rams FC (Photo Ramsgate FC)

Rams FC chairman James Lawson says the gap between Summer and late December is too long and so the club has taken action to ensure it can run the programme during this month’s (October) half term.

James, who stepped up as chairman some 18 months ago, said: “When you are dealing with deprivation a big barrier to people attending these schemes is trust. You have to build that trust with pupils, parents and schools.

“We had appointed a community officer and have been in schools doing free PE lessons and this really built that trust.

“We had hundreds of kids every week throughout the summer and kids who weren’t active now are and they were eating hot meals, healthy snacks and getting four hours coaching.

“It is a long time between summer and late December and we were concerned about that. So, we looked for a commercial partner and RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP)  have donated the money to run the scheme this October.

“They have lots of links in aviation so there will be flight simulators as part of the activities the kids can experience.”

Other activities will include street dance, arts and crafts, multi-sports and the use of VR headsets with vocational careers information.

RSP has provided £16,000 to fund the scheme.

Dr Sally Dixon, who is co-ordinating the programme for RSP Manston Airport, said: “A hot meal and fun with your friends in the holidays should be on the menu for every child, but we know some families really need support to make this possible. Ramsgate FC has a brilliant reputation for their holiday camps and, when they told us there was no Government funding to feed these children over half term, we stepped in to help.

“However, we wanted to go further than just provide funding, We wanted to bring along some fun activities and share the skills and experience of the Manston Airport family too. We are working with Polar Helicopters and TG Aviation and will bring along some flight simulators that will allow the youngsters to take to the virtual skies as a pilot. The activity will be overseen by a pilot trainer who will talk to the youngsters about the skills needed in a variety of logistics jobs.

“I am also delighted to confirm that local food producers including Prep World and Thanet Earth are also supporting the programme, providing fresh produce that the club’s chefs will use in the menu. We are really grateful to everyone that has helped us make this possible – this is a real Thanet effort to ensure these youngsters have a fantastic half term.”

Photo Ramsgate FC

James, whose dad Richard owned the club since 1985 and was a director for some 25 years before stepping back in 2013, says the Rams also want to inspire youngsters to head into careers and be successful.

He said: “We are aware Thanet has the highest levels of unemployment for 16-24 year olds, and actually the highest level for all age groups. There are also the lowest levels of available supply so linking with aviation and construction industries can help kids aspire to get into those industries.”

James, who says some 1,000 Thanet under-18s now play at Ramsgate FC,  says the club is using apprenticeships to give young players additional skills and experience through mentoring in schools, with the added bonus of youngsters being taught by skilled players who they can also seeing on the pitch.

A stadium for the community Photo Ramsgate FC

He said: “Typical kids can see the link between being active and being successful. Our apprentices are in local schools running PE lessons, getting kids to show an interest whether that is just getting the ones at the back to come to the front or getting them into after school clubs and into a sporting team.

“We started our community activator scheme in May and it is something we want to grow.

“We have first team players, with some 600-700 people watching them every week – and kids can watch them scoring goals and they are taught PE by them.”

First team player TJ Jadama is one of those currently inspiring youngsters through the scheme.

All youth team players and a parent get free entry to the WW Martin Community stadium and the club has been offering free family tickets to all Thanet schoolchildren.

Community use at the club has benefitted from the £750,000 WW Martin stadium and 3G pitch, with the all-weather surface meaning the ground can be used “every minute of every day” by players of all ages and also by schools, colleges, youth organisations and community teams.

1st Garlinge Ravens Cub Pack at the WW Martin Community Stadium (Photo Ramsgate FC)

And there are plans to spend between “£2-£3million” on a new stand on the north side of the stadium which will also serve as a college for 14 to 16 year olds.

James said: “It would be normal class work but kids would be allowed on the main pitch too, an incentive that would improve attendance. It would be a college in its own right. Kids love being around football and the stadium and when you mix that with education they are more likely to turn up and to connect.”

The autumn HAF programme runs from October 26th – 29th October, 10am to 3pm, at the WW Martin Community Stadium.  There are 120 places available.

Book at https://www.cognitoforms.com/RamsgateFC/HAFOctober

The club will also be running its soccer school and health and wellbeing camps. Find more details on the Ramsgate FC facebook page here.

Club news

  • Ramsgate FC Women vs Baldon Sports Women tomorrow (October 3) 4pm kick off, entry to WW Martin Community Stadium is free
  • Open trials for the Rams U23 squad, every Tuesday from 8pm-9:30pm up until December 21 at the stadium. Contact Simon Pettit on 07464 785218
  • Will Graham has been announced as the club’s new Head of Youth coaching. Will takes over Kent Youth under 18 Premier team as manager and will work closely with the first team and under 23 set up. Will is a UEFA A licensed coach. Previous clubs: Assistant Manager Hythe Town, Manager/1st Team Coach Whitstable Town, Ramsgate 1st Team Coach. Charlton Athletic Kent Academy Head Scout, Princeton College USA Head Coach, Texas Lonestar Director Of Coaching. Paul Hill and Jim Barras will now will be taking up different roles within the club