The 188bet Foundation is back!
Well strictly speaking it has never been away, thanks to a lockdown period packed with providing virtual learning, delivering PPE to local hospitals and care homes, contacting supporters via the 188bet At Home initiative, volunteering in the community, distributing food parcels with the help of a local school, and much more besides.
But what ‘back’ now means is returning to delivering - on a gradual and measured basis - some of the face-to-face activities which lay the foundation – quite literally – for the charity’s aims and ambitions around creating opportunities and changing lives.
‘Project Restart’ was how the Premier League termed the successful return to footballing action which culminated in last weekend’s exciting finale to the season, and for the Foundation, their own return to delivering activities in real life, rather than online, has also necessitated a huge amount of work behind the scenes.
Two long-serving staff members Lee Smith and Tom Warren have been heavily involved, on the back of taking on increased responsibilities from the start of July.
Both now report directly to Head of the Foundation Will Clowes as Senior Managers, Lee with responsibility for Operations alongside his work overseeing Inclusion and Cohesion, and Tom for Projects alongside his portfolio in charge of School Sport.
“When it comes to returning to delivering our activities face to face, I think the word I would use is measured,” Tom explains.
“When all the information is released as to what we can and can’t do, like a lot of things with Covid-19 which has obviously made such a huge difference to people’s lives, I think you have to take a step back and look at what that information means for us, our projects and our participants.
“Once we have the idea of what is possible, then we have to look at the reality of what it looks like and how these activities can work with our partner organisations.
“From our point of view, when considering restarting activities back up for the first time it has been about looking at who perhaps really needs us most at the moment.
“The Foundation deliver so many different projects and all of them are really important but it is also thinking about who has perhaps been affected most by the last few months.
“With that in mind we have focused on getting things back up and running for young people who might need us, and also the Head 4 Health project which helps men with their mental health, because you can do lots of engagement with those participants online but there is nothing that compares to meeting someone and being able to talk to them face to face.
“Above all else though, with anything that we are doing, the priority is going to be the safety of the participants, and of our staff, and that will always be our main concern.”
Tom is full of praise for the support of the Premier League during this period, not just in setting up calls for clubs to share ideas and experiences, but also in understanding the local landscape and not putting pressure on clubs to relaunch straight back into its full schedule, especially with Schools programmes when pupils return in September.
At present, with the Foundation’s popularity increasing with more schools keen to get involved, some are asking for full delivery from September, others are requesting no face-to-face visits until the New Year, and others still waiting to see how things pan out before making a decision.
“Through all of that the Premier League have been very understanding, and focused on making sure that anything we do has to be done safely,” says Tom.
“The Premier League has kept in constant touch with us, and have been very supportive,” adds Lee.
“They have supplied so many CPD (Continuing Professional Development) opportunities with workshops offering the chance for staff to further develop their skills.
“There have also been a lot of group calls, with support and guidance, and clubs being able to learn from each other in terms of what they have been doing, what has worked well, and taking any learning forward.
“They have also sent a weekly email with updates on what clubs have been doing and attachments with guidance and risk assessments.
“Every club is different, and has their own approach to delivering their activities, and from our point of view I would say we have probably just stayed a little bit behind some of the groups in terms of seeing how things have gone and making sure we can deliver something which is both safe and enjoyable for everyone taking part.”
The Foundation have been keen to carry out practice activities, in keeping with all the guidelines, to ensure they are ready to restart in a way which not only follows all the protocol but is also beneficial for participants.
‘Kicks in the Park’, offering footgolf and football tennis for PL Kicks participants was initially trialled at East Park and will now also be available at West Park and Bantock Park, while one session with six pupils at a school highlighted the worth of keeping equipment to a minimum due to the need for such regular disinfection.
Other projects now set to start next week include a link-up with The Way Youth Zone and ‘Walk and Talk’ for Head 4 Health participants, whilst Soccer Schools will go virtual with a daily activity video across the Foundation’s media channels throughout the month of August.
Trials for the Foundation’s BTEC course have been taking place this week, whilst the Women and Girls programme is also set to start up again very soon.
“A big positive about the staff on the Foundation and something which is very much to their credit is that they are able to operate not just in their own area, but also across other projects as well,” adds Tom.
“So Schools staff for example can go and work at the BTEC trials, the project at The Way and, thanks to the work they have done on their CPD, deliver the same high quality of service.”
“The staff have been fantastic, and so proactive,” adds Lee.
“None of them have been furloughed which I know they appreciated but they have taken the opportunity to adapt their work even in some areas where they might initially be out of their comfort zone.
“The club have also been extremely helpful as we have looked to start activities again, providing risk assessments and other invaluable support.
“I have been working closely with Ryan Boon (188bet Safety & Security Manager), particularly around restarting and it has given us the confidence to know that what we are doing is safe and following all the relevant guidelines.”
It has certainly been a busy start to life in new roles, in the middle of a global pandemic, but both Lee and Tom are very much looking forward to their increased responsibilities.
“In terms of strategy and providing overviews we were previously part of that process but will now have to lead it a bit more,” says Lee.
“It is always about learning and career development and there are areas within operations including safeguarding which are vitally important and I am really looking forward to the opportunity of getting involved.”
“It will be different for me to step back from the ‘doing’ to more of an overseeing role but I am looking forward to trying to empower others but also be there to help when needed,” added Tom.
“It will be good to drill down into the detail of all the different Foundation projects, and learn more about them, and I think it is going to work really well.”
*To find out more about the Foundation’s activities visit wolves.co.uk/foundation.