Arsenal’s work in the community is critical to the club’s vision of ‘developing pride’, according to CEO Ivan Gazidis.
Speaking at the recent European Healthy Stadia Conference at the Emirates Stadium, Gazidis spoke of his pride in the work of Arsenal in the Community, which delivers sport, social and education programmes to help over 5,000 people every week.
“Football is an extraordinary sport in its global reach and connection to so many people,” said Gazidis.
“Arsenal within that are in a privileged position to reach out to people in a special way and, once we have connected with them, we can offer broader services and deliver great outcomes for them.”
“We take that commitment to helping our communities, both here locally and around the world, very seriously. We work right across the club, not just in our community team, to develop these outcomes and the volunteering behind this.
“Our club vision is to develop pride and of course football is a very important part of that, but what we do off the pitch is equally as important to us. What we are in a privileged position to be able to do, around the world and in our local community, is critical to our vision of pride.”
Established in 1985, Arsenal in the Community today run 360 sessions in 180 venues each week across a range of sport, education and social inclusion programmes that promote physical and mental health and provide positive social outcomes for participants.
Sport is at the heart of everything they do. There are weekly football sessions for adults with a range of physical and learning disabilities, mental health diagnoses, Down’s Syndrome and special educational needs, whilst a cycling project for disabled people, weekly walking football sessions for older players and six weekly bowls sessions for senior citizens – run since the 1980s – demonstrate the broad selection of sessions on offer.
A range of education and training projects help young people to improve numeracy and literacy and boost their education and employment prospects, whilst social inclusion programmes like the Kicks project use football as a hook to help young people adopt positive influences in their lives.
Arsenal’s charitable work begins at home in the local community but, given the global reach of the Premier League these days, the club ensures it doesn’t end there, working closely alongside global charity partner Save The Children to help improve the lives of people overseas.
“We understand that Arsenal is now a global brand and we can make a difference and reach all around the world,” said Gazidis. “We decided to take ideas that had been successful in the local community and take them global, in a partnership with the humanitarian expertise, capabilities and global reach of a partner like Save The Children.”
Working with Save The Children and supported by the Arsenal Foundation, the club’s charitable and fundraising arm, the Gunners have supported emergency appeals in places as far away as Japan, the Philippines and East Africa.
They are also working to bring artificial football pitches and supporting programmes to some of the poorest areas around the world. Last year a new pitch was opened in a displaced people camp in Iraq, while three new pitches opened this April in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, with more to follow in Ethiopia and Somalia.
“These are programmes targeted at people who are displaced or refugees, often young people who have no playing facilities’” said Gazidis. “Building pitches is one part; then providing supporting programmes to obtain good social outcomes on the back of that is another.
“That is using the power of the Arsenal name to reach people, to get them into an environment that they enjoy and then use the talents that we have developed, as have Save the Children and our other partners, to develop great social outcomes in the areas of health and education.”
Gazidis joined Arsenal in 2009, since when the club has won three FA Cups and two Community Shields, but it is the club’s successful work off the pitch that stirs his pride as much as anything.
He recalls a quote from Borry Jarju, a member of Arsenal’s Freedom From Torture group, which uses football to help people – often with a very traumatic recent past – and connect them to their local communities, providing practical skills and helping them to find work and get back on their feet.
“Borry says it better than I could,” explains Gazidis.
“He said: ‘I thought Arsenal was just a football club but it goes beyond that. It’s not just about the team or even about the club helping kids to play football. It helps build people’s lives. Before, I was one out of 10; now I’m 10 out of 10.’
”Nothing makes me more proud of the club.”
Ivan Gazidis was speaking at the European Healthy Stadia Conference at the Emirates Stadium, for which ConnectSport was official media partner. You can read more about the event or watch the event video on ConnectSport TV.