Everton CEO Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale and first team manager Marco Silva were on hand on Wednesday afternoon to officially open The Blue Base, a new Everton in the Community facility in the shadows of Goodison Park that will be home to the charity’s programmes for elderly participants who are living with dementia and/or suffering from social isolation.
Funded by Everton Football Club and the Football Foundation funding partners – the Premier League, the FA and Sport England, the £800,000 newly renovated and fully accessible building will also provide a place for the Club’s disabled fans to gather with their friends and family before a home match, allowing them to avoid crowded streets and pubs.
The Blue Base is one of the first community focussed facilities to be funded by the three national partners that goes beyond the traditional artificial and grass pitches and changing rooms. Investment in these football club hub sites demonstrates their continued commitment to supporting professional club community organisations with their ever-expanding community engagement programmes.
Everton’s new manager Marco Silva joined Denise Barrett-Baxendale at the building alongside local dignitaries and key officials to officially declare The Blue Base open and find out more about the programme and the people it supports by joining in a game of ‘Blue Bingo’ with the charity’s older participants where Club ambassadors Ian Snodin and Graham Stuart took on the role of bingo callers!
The manager then joined the participants in a sporting reminiscence workshop where they spent their time looking through football memorabilia and sharing memories and anecdotes from years gone by.
Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Everton CEO, said: “It’s a very proud day for everyone at Everton in the Community. It is fantastic to finally declare The Blue Base officially open after two years of work on the building from the vision right through to the delivery of our programmes.
“The work we do here is an example of how you support your extended family. We’ve had a busy room full of grandads and grandma’s who are living with dementia and memory loss and this is how we come together and support them. That family value is important to us.”
Marco Silva, Everton Football Club manager, said: “Since the first day I arrived Denise spoke to me about the community and what our club does to help everybody, and I told her I want to be a part of this.
“Today I have seen an example of what the club and charity do behind the scenes to support and build important things for local people – it is important that we all do what we can as part of this big family.”
Richard Scudamore, Premier League Executive Chairman, said: “For over twenty-five years, Everton in the Community has delivered engaging outreach programmes in the Goodison area which have positively impacted supporters and residents alike.
The continued investment and development in and around Goodison, with the opening of the Blue Base, showcases how the club has maintained its traditional values, ensuring it remains at the heart of its community.”
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Everton in the Community has a proud history of delivering community projects that use the power of football to improve the lives of people across Merseyside. However these life-changing projects need local venues at which to take place. I am therefore delighted that the new Blue Base facility will become another crucial platform to support Everton in the Community’s outstanding outreach work.
“The Football Foundation is developing these types of high-quality community facilities across the country thanks to the generous investment provided by our Funding Partners, the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 1,167 grants worth £30m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £66.7m across the whole of Merseyside.
“Congratulations to everyone who has worked hard to make this project become a reality and I look forward to seeing how it will help to transform the lives of local people.”
Everton in the Community’s Pass on the Memories programmes supports people living with dementia and their carers and engages over 200 participants annually in over 90 sessions.
The Blue Base will also provide a home to the charity’s Stand Together programme that tackles social isolation among individuals aged over 70 in the local community. These sessions offer activities focusing on the individuals’ enjoyment, including sessions on the history of the city, guest speakers and visits to local places of interest.
The Blue Base is the latest building to be developed in the ‘Goodison Campus’ which has seen Everton Football Club and its official charity tackle social issues and needs within the community head-on. It has converted derelict buildings in the streets surrounding Goodison Park and dedicated them to its charity’s community provision, its participants and the local residents. These buildings will ensure that the heartbeat of the Club remains in its local community and will form an Everton legacy long after the football club moves to a new stadium.
The campus started with the development of the Everton Free School. A £4.2m facility that gives young people aged between 14-19 who have fallen out of education, employment or training a second chance. Using the power of the crest, the Everton Free School gives 200 young people a second chance at obtaining the education and direction they need to progress in their life and gives them a foundation for further education, employment or training. The Free School has been an amazing success achieving an overall attendance rate of 89% and a 100% pass rate for all pupils in the Sixth Form college.
Next door to the Free School is a building which has become known as The People’s Hub. The £1.2m development is an innovative community facility that meets the needs of residents and will also be a place the charity calls home. The building houses many of the charity’s award-winning projects and offers the local community to use the space for things such as mother and baby clubs, local resident/community meetings as well as other community interventions including refugee integration and education sessions. Residents have developed a connection to, and ownership of the space which was officially opened last summer by HRH Prince Edward.
Everton have also purchased several derelict houses (five in total) on Goodison Road (directly opposite the Club’s Main Stand) and bringing them back to life and putting pride and value back into the area.
The next piece of the Goodison Campus will be a mental health facility called The People’s Place. A fundraising programme has been launched to address an issue that is prevalent in many significantly deprived inner-city areas such as L4.
Once all the buildings on the campus are developed, the Club – as well as funding partners – will have invested around £8million in community facilities into one of the poorest wards in Europe.