Annan Athletic have long been regarded as a central hub of the community – and now, thanks to National Lottery players, they aim to take their community engagement to unprecedented levels.
Annan Athletic have been selected as one of three clubs to participate in the Developing Community Clubs pilot project. Thanks to an award from the Big Lottery Fund, the project aims to develop clubs into broader community assets, transcending the boundaries of football by delivering extensive benefits to the community.
Already positioned as a pillar of social engagement within the Annan community, Annan Athletic have set an ambitious target of becoming the first fully fan-owned club in Scottish football. Recently, their members voted to become a Community Benefit Society, dedicated to serving the broader interests of the community.
The club have delivered a number of social-focused programmes over the years, including para-football, walking football, girls’ and women’s teams, drug and alcohol awareness programmes, and coach education programmes for first-time offenders.
With their ability for delivering initiatives such as these already stretched, they are now in the process of leveraging the Developing Community Clubs project to increase their capacity for community initiatives.
Through the project, Annan hope to instigate a series of community asset transfers that will see them take ownership of their stadium, an adjacent caravan park and nearby land, all of which are currently on Common Good Land.
Once the asset transfers are completed, the club will generate additional revenue streams that they will funnel back into the club, in addition to opening up new employment opportunities for the local community.
They have also identified a lack of meeting and conference facilities in the local area and are keen to upgrade the clubhouse to fill this gap, should the stadium be transferred to their ownership.
According to Philip Jones, Chairman of Annan Athletic, the project represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure the club’s future and position it as a focal point of the community for years to come.
“After extensive community consultation and through this project we have the potential to expand our facilities for both the club and the community, with conference facilities, a café and bar, a fully-functioning gym and fitness suites, all available for community use,” said Jones.
“At present, our footfall through the facility is around 7,000 people per week, in a population of roughly 10,500, so we are already a hub for the community.
“Our intention is to position ourselves as a multifunctional facility used by the community that still has the club at its core.
“We are particularly proud of some of our off pitch work, such as our Bingo night for older members of the community or our programme where we engaged and delivered at the local prison.
“The impact that this project has had on the club is immense and you couldn’t carry out the plans we have without the support of the Big Lottery Fund.
“It’s not just about the investment though – it also gives you other benefits that can really make a difference, such as access to mentors and training.
“It has helped to change mind-sets and gives you a focus and direction. The entire project has been well structured and the difference it has made already is unbelievable.”
“Annan Athletic are a brilliant partner club of the Scottish FA – they have achieved the highest level in our Quality Mark scheme and are very engaged with both the Scottish FA and their community,” said David Sheldon, Scottish FA Club Development Manager for the South West Region.
“Through the Developing Community Club project they have exciting plans to develop their existing programmes and create even more of an impact on the community.
“They have a good track record of delivering successful social enterprise programmes and are deserving of the support they receive through this project. We are thankful to be working in partnership with them.”