THE importance of community involvement is not lost on Coleraine FC.
But for the role played by the fans and wider community a number of years ago the club may not have survived to tell the tale.
The Friends of Coleraine FC, the fans group which took over ownership of the club, has always said it was their intention to have Coleraine as ‘the club at the heart of the community, with a real heart for the community’.
And last Monday night they moved to strengthen those links further with the launch of the club’s Community Audit.
The 20-page document produced by Shane McCullough of in conjunction with the IFA outlines the club’s strengths and weaknesses in the community and recommends how the club should move forward in the future.
Andy Alcorn, Club Community Liaison Officer and CFC Academy chairman, was instrumental in the production of the audit.
“The audit is designed to be a thought provoking document,” Andy told guests at the lauch in Coleraine Social Club.
“It’s to get people thinking about what we do well in the community and the things that we need to work on.
“The senior team will always take precedence with anything that happens within the club and the facilities, of which we have a lot, will always be available to them first.
“But there is a wide range of things which the wider community could be using.
“The audit was also designed to identify gaps in the sections of the community that we perhaps don’t represent at the moment.
“We have made good strides in certain areas. We have formed a Disabled Supporters Association. We have huge numbers at our academy, which handles both academy football and community teams.
“The IFA are trying to encourage more community involvement in clubs by getting clubs to partake in these audits as part of the licensing scheme.
“Clubs can no longer afford to be open just one day a week. This is becoming more and more evident around the Showgrounds as there’s always something going on now.
“What we would like to do by the end of this process is make the Showgrounds the heart of the community.
“We want to increase community involvement in the Showgrounds day and daily.
“It just doesn’t have to be just about football. At the outset of this process we looked at what Falkirk and Charlton Athletic were doing in the community.
“These two clubs lend themselves to doing a host of things within the community.
“One of the key messages that came out of Falkirk was that no matter how bad things got on the pitch the club would always survive because of the community involvement seven days a week.
“That’s something we’d want to achieve here as we know what it’s like to suffer bad times.”
The audit’s author, Shane McCullough, Associate Head; Ulster Sports Academy, praised the club for how they embraced the project.
“I know from my experience working with the club from the top down you have a fantastic base to build from and it can only go from strength to strength,” he said
“This is a fantastic starting point for the club. The Academy is absolutely superb in terms of good practice, the number of volunteers you have and the amount of kids taking part. But things can always get better.
“This audit is about how you can get better and maximise your role in the community, as well as improving the first team.
“It’s also about engaging with all communities and getting them involved with your club.”
Club chairman Colin McKendry thanked everyone for their hard work.
“As Chairman of Coleraine Football Club I have great pride in what other people are trying to achieve through this community audit,” he said.
“There has been so much hard work put into this project. There has been an awful lot of hard work going on behind the scenes which people don’t know about.
“One person in particular who deserves an awful lot of credit is the chairman of the Academy, Andrew Alcorn.”
Bannsiders manager Oran Kearney also praised the efforts of everyone involved in the project and said that he hoped it would pay dividends for the club in the future with the provision of much needed facilities.
“One of my key goals since coming here was to make it more locally based, whether it be local players, staff or whatever,” said Oran.
“Clubs who thrive the best are community based clubs, who have the backing of the local community.
“We have saw first hand at our games the passion of the fans and the vibrancy and life about the town. “There is a big need for facilities in this area. Not just for us as a first team but right through the Reserves, Colts, Academy teams and local junior sides as it impacts on the quality and type of training more than anything else.
“We are pushing on well at first team level, but we have to crack the facilities side of things if we are to continue to push on to the next level.
“It is also key in helping us to develop good local players. This audit can only help kick us on as a club and hopefully as a community in total, and what we’ll get from that is not only good players but a strong fan base to help us progress to even bigger and better things.”