Dada Masilo

Forest Announce Partnership with Nottingham Schools Football Association

19 June 19 words: Gemma Fenyn
photos: Fabrice Gagos

In a move that further cements the club’s commitment to active participation within the community, Nottingham Forest have announced a new partnership with the Nottingham Schools Football Association, pledging to bridge their current funding gap.

(From left) Steve Farr (NSFA) , Reds chairman Nicholas Randall QC, Paul McGregor, Arvin Appiah, Garry Birtles, Julian Bennett and Rod Hirst (NSFA)

Following on from the launch of their Dream Big Project, Forest will be providing resources to give the Nottingham Schools Football Association a much needed boost. Red’s Chairman, Nicholas Randall QC said, “The Nottingham Schools FA has a proud history and it would have been extremely disappointing if it were to cease its activities because of a lack of resources. That is something the Club was not willing to let happen. As soon as we became aware that football in schools in Nottingham was at risk we offered to protect the future of the Association.”

Having formed 127 years ago, the NSFA recently faced uncertainty after they lost vital funding, “We have been supported over the years superbly by Nottingham City Council,” committee member Rod Hirst told LeftLion, “but of course, in these financial times somebody has to be dropped and one of the groups was us.”  

Today’s announcement is said to be the result of hours of negotiation and discussion, where both parties worked to establish an appropriate partnership, “We’ve had an ongoing relationship with the club, particularly the community part of the club for a while,” explained Rod, but he added “whatever happens, we have to still be part of English Schools FA, we can’t be part of Nottingham Forest or anything like that.”

Rod, who himself has been on the NSFA committee for fifty years, is encouraged by the boost in additional resources that the new agreement will bring, “Certainly the club will help us with the personnel concerned,” he remarked, “we don’t get the volunteers coming along that we used to. People in schools, teachers in schools now, have their plates full. Things have changed tremendously so the volunteer side of it is going and so they’ll certainly be able to help in that respect.”

The Nottingham Forest Community Trust, who will deliver the schools football programme, plan to place an emphasis on managing schools competitions and encouraging greater levels of participation in girls football. They are also enthusiastic to promote the physical benefits that the sport can bring and feel that the partnership will play a key part in promoting exercise, encouraging Notts kids to lead healthy lives.

Player Arvin Appiah, who made his debut with the first team last season, knows first hand how participation in the sport impacts on the lives of youngsters, “Growing up and playing for City Boys has been a good thing. Not only for me but my teammates growing up especially,” he said, “not just with football but away from football, the likes of staying out of trouble, going to play football Saturday and training throughout the week, it’s helped us a lot.”

Arvin is positive about how the development will impact on the future of football in the city and feels that we are already beginning to see the benefits, “There’s so much talent coming from Nottingham at the moment, we need to get as many talented players as we can.”   

Another advocate of the move is Forest legend Garry Birtles. Starting life on a council estate in Chilwell, he experienced first hand the extent to which Notts youth football can transform lives, “I was playing three games a weekend and I just loved every minute of it.” he told us.

Birtles is also excited to see the impact that the venture will have on the area, “The system that we’re seeing is fantastic, it gives kids an opportunity to reach for the highest goals. I think it will be a massive lift for football in the area. And that’s what this is all about. It’s getting kids interested, involved and enjoying it; showing them there is an opportunity to think big and be successful, no matter where you come from.”

It’s not always good news around Notts these days, but it’s encouraging to see that Forest are using the 40th anniversary of their Europen Cup win to reignite a sense of pride in the city and inspire future generations. You have to wonder, could this be the first step towards future success? Who knows, but as Birtles puts it himself, “We can maybe go to the heights again if we get it right.”

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