Reds in the Community Update – Chief Executive Officer Wayne Bullimore

We are now approaching the year end, and what a year it has been! Coronavirus has changed so much and will continue to have an impact on all of our lives for many months to come.

Reds in the Community, the charity arm of Barnsley Football Club, like the vast majority of organisations is facing unprecedented challenges. The initial acute lockdown and subsequent restrictions between March and September resulted in 80% of our face-to-face work paused. The entire thirty plus strong workforce abandoning our Oakwell HQ and quickly setting about a crash course in remote working and digital engagement with beneficiaries and virtual learning with our Post 16 students. Unsurprisingly, in addition to the impact on our frontline work, we are also counting financial losses which resulted in a significant dent in our cash reserves. Fortunately, we came into the crisis in a strong financial position. This combined with accessing the Government Job Retention Scheme and the much-appreciated support from key funders we were able to mitigate the downturn and significantly retain all of our valued workforce.

Everyone has faced unprecedented challenges over the past six months or so. While this has undoubtedly fuelled uncertainties and anxiety, it has also provided a good opportunity to step back, reflect and learn from the experience. This extraordinary turn of events has brought about many positives. The pulling together of the network of Club based charities, the support from the EFL and PL charity arms and local partners has been a particular highlight for me. I really hope the increased collaboration and camaraderie across the ‘football family’ and beyondbuilt during the crisis is nurtured and not allowed to fade away.

We have many reasons to be optimistic moving forward. No one knows when the pandemic will end, but with a vaccine on the horizon, we can now see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. We can start to look forward to our daily lives returning to something that looks like normal, our vital charitable work away from the pitch back at full speed and supporters returning to Oakwell on mass.

Since September, following the Governments drive to get young people and the vulnerable back in education and sport, we have continued to navigate restrictions and have seen a steady flow of our work returning. It again serves as a timely reminder ofthe quality, reach and impact of our work with programmes supporting education, physical and mental health, women, girls and disability sports, refugees, NCS, homeless initiatives and tackling all forms of discrimination. We are ready, visible and financially viable to work collaboratively with local and national partners to address some of the fallout of COVID-19 supporting local recovery and getting the borough back up and running.

The future for us looks exciting and challenging in equal measures. I never get tired of reminding people that Barnsley Football Club was founded by Reverend Tiverton Preedy in 1887. Primarily as a way to use football for social good and forge closer contact with local people. Today, through the work of Reds in the Community, we continue to live and breathe that vision at a time when there has never been more relevancy and need for our work. I am sure the Reverend would approve that the Reds remain at the heart of its community on and off the pitch.

As ever, stay safe and positive.

In solidarity.

Wayne