Breaking down barriers to sports participation

A group of students from a range of disciplines and backgrounds worked alongside West Ham United Foundation to unite the local community through the power of football.

Collaborating with a University, bridging that gap between Higher Education and industry provided the students with beneficial business insights and also allowed us to gain valued ideas from a talented group of students.

Dr Emily Hayday, West Ham United Foundation

About West Ham United Foundation

West Ham United's community department has just celebrated its 25th year of service in East London and Essex. As a newly-launched Foundation, its key aims comprise of breaking down barriers to sports participation and, in doing so, uniting the local community through the power of football. Additionally, the Foundation seeks to create life-changing opportunities for its participants, as well as facilitating the West Ham player pathway for those who excel.Our new vision is to be a truly inclusive organisation offering a range of programmes that provide positive experiences to all. This then identifies six key goals that focuses all of our work-streams:

1) To be at the forefront of innovative community sporting programmes and partnerships.

2) To expand our activities across Essex and other UK locations.

3) To create clear development pathways across education and employability.

4) To engage local clubs through a clear regional structure.

5) To establish international programmes that enhance our global footprint.

6) To deliver a lasting legacy from the heart of east London.

About the project with West Ham United Foundation

Students were tasked with developing ways to measure the impact of West Ham United Foundation's variety of outreach and community programmes. They had to work on new ways to gain a clearer understanding of how the Foundation is adding value to the West Ham United brand in terms of both social capital and financial benefit. By having a clearer understanding of the impact that the West Ham United Foundation has on the community, this provides a richer understanding of their influence. In turn, this valuable insight will be used in the future as a leveraging tool.

What is West Ham United Foundation up to now?

The Foundation is working on a number of programmes within the community. This includes their Learning Academy which is a two-year, full-time education and football development programme for talented young players. Roque Nchaso, a 17-year-old centre back who is involved with the Foundation's Academy programme, was invited to play for the Elite 2nd Chance Squad who train at the Academy Training Ground at Chadwell Heath. Through the Academy, Roque was given the opportunity to travel with a mixed U18s and U23 squad to Hong Kong for the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens in May 2017. 

U18s Assistant Manager Mark Phillips said, "Considering Roque had never played at this standard before, and was thousands of miles from home with a group of players he didn't know before traveling, he coped extremely well."

"He played a large number of minutes throughout the tournament, and also vastly improved his social interaction with both players and staff as the week wore on. I feel and hope it was a fulfilling experience both on and off the pitch for Roque, who ultimately returned with a winning medal!"

This is a fantastic example of the Foundation's work, which provides young players with the opportunity to get into the football industry, through initiatives such as the Second Chance programme. This is aimed at players who have previously been unsuccessful at Academies. 

Another way that the academy is currently connecting members of the community is through their 'Any Old Irons' programme. This five-week initiative gives participants the opportunity to connect with other fans and locals in their community, bringing them together for fun and friendship. Those attending can also learn how to stay in touch with their fellow fans and the club using digital technology.

The most recent five-week cohort has just finished, so the West Ham United Foundation spoke with Alice about her experience of the sessions. Alice is 95 years of age, and has been living locally in East Ham for over 50 years. She lost her husband ten years ago, and the Any Old Irons programme has given her the opportunity to improve her life.
“I used to be a neighbour of Harry Redknapp’s mother when I lived in Poplar”, Alice explained. “My friend who is also a social worker let me know about the programme and suggested I join.”
“I’ve been quite lonely for the last few years, and had very few friends. The Any Old Irons programme has helped me meet lots of new and interesting people – and we’re all West Ham fans which is great!”
Hammers legend and current first-team coach, Julian Dicks, said: “Any Old Irons is another brilliant initiative from the Foundation, in partnership with Friends of the Elderly, to support older people in the West Ham community. By bringing together Hammers’ fans who may not be socially active, Any Old Irons helps keep vulnerable fans connected; it's great to see so many supporters from different generations bonding over our club and their shared memories."