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Community Football Summit 2021

23rd September 2021, The Lamex Stadium, Stevenage FC

Bringing together everyone involved with
developing and delivering grassroots football in the new normal world


Strategies, policies, experiences, real stories and successes to be told, lessons to be learnt, ideas and experiences to be shared.



The unique, must-attend event for everyone involved with community football

GameDay – sponsors of the Community Football Summit 2021

GameDay are leading global providers of next-generation sports technology solutions, active since 2001 and now operating in key markets across the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.


8.45 – 9.15 Registration and Tea/Coffee


 9.15 – 9.30 Welcome and setting the scene

Chair, Svend Elkjaer, Founder/Director, Sports Marketing Network

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Svend Elkjaer is founder and director of the Sports Marketing Network, a leading consultancy and information provider with community sport and physical activity. Being described as ‘a positive disruptor’ Svend has worked across the UK and Denmark with all types of providers and funders helping them to become vibrant, visible and viable.

9.30 – 10.00 Challenges and opportunities for grassroots football


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10.00 – 10.30 The emergence of a collaboration between sport tech and grassroots sport

Alex Zurita, London Sport’s Specialist Advisor – Technology for Participation

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Along with a growing digitally savvy population, there is also the emergence of tech entrepreneurs creating and developing products focusing on the grassroots and mass market by bringing new innovation, engagement tools and business models for the sport and physical activity sector.

Sport Tech Hub has been key in enabling this growth as it was founded with a core purpose to better connect London’s thriving SportTech scene with a wider strategic ambition to make London the most physically active city in the world.

This session will present the emergence of a sport tech community via the Sport Tech Hub, hear from entrepreneurs looking to drive more participation and engagement and a key to this, how collaboration with clubs, local organisations and governing bodies is paramount.

Three years on, over 35 tech entrepreneurs have benefited from the Sport Tech Hub’s support, building and driving partnerships from football foundations, local authorities to health trusts, ultimately impacting tens of thousands of Londoners and beyond.

Alex Zurita is London Sport’s Specialist Advisor – Technology for Participation, with responsibility for shaping London Sport’s strategic commitments to supporting technology, data and digital initiatives designed to raise levels of participation in physical activity and sport in the capital. This includes leading the Sport Tech Hub, London’s strategic plan of action – ‘Making London the Heart of the Sport Tech World’ and engaging with sector-leading initiatives such as OpenActive.

Alex joined London Sport in 2011 with brief stints as Great Britain Women’s Football Team Manager, and a secondment to the London Legacy Development Corporation as Programme Manager for the multimillion-pound project – Active People, Active Park.


10.30 – 11.00 Engaging with non-traditional community football clubs

Tom Burstow, Deputy CEO, Sported

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Beyond the formal structure of the game, hundreds of community groups use the power of football to create positive social outcomes for young people across the country. Often established by local volunteers, they deliver great work reaching members of the community facing huge challenges such as poverty, youth violence, poor educational attainment and other inequalities.

Despite the enormous passion and dedication of their group leaders, a disproportionate number of football focused groups fall by the wayside given their incredibly limited resources and constrained organisational capacity. Sported works with these groups on a free to join basis, strengthening their ability to raise funds, reach new audiences and start planning for the future. 

This session will highlight the challenges that exist in strengthening the game at a grassroots level particularly for those groups aiming for community benefit as much as sporting success and will suggest, from our experience, the ways in which the game can grow sustainably and reaching all audiences.

11.00 -11.30 Tea/Coffee



11.30 – 12.00 Three workshops (delegates will have to decide which one they want to attend,

but will also receive the slide presentations for the other workshops).  

Football For Fun welcoming environments 

Svend Elkjaer, Founder/Director, Sports Marketing Network 

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The #1 reason kids quit is that football is no longer fun.

How we can inspire more football bodies, clubs, coaches and parents to develop more supporting and welcoming cultures and environments where young people, regardless of their talent and skills can enjoy and express themselves through football.

Kids tell us that one of the main reasons they quit is because they are afraid to make mistakes, because they get criticised, yelled at, benched, and more. Great players develop in environments where they do not fear mistakes, where they are encouraged to try and fail, and they are made to understand that failure is a necessary part of the development process.

 This presentation will cover how Football For Fun is inspiring, supporting and networking to grow a movement to attract and retain more kids in football by developing a culture that encourages play and fun across the club, listening to your players and their lives and deliver person-centred experiences and building a new workforce to develop fun and joyful environments for football for young people..

Developing Scandinavia’s largest integrated youth football initiative 

John Witting. Fodboldlinjen, Randers

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Fodboldlinjen in Randers, Denmark (population 63,000) has been going for 10 years and more than 500 boys and girls in the 7th to 9th grade play football in the morning between 6.15 – 7.45 am twice a week at twelve different facilities across town. The young people are graded according to their footballing levels so that they will we playing with equals.

 The project also delivers a six-week junior leadership course where the young people are taught design (football kits), innovation, management, marketing and strategy and they then produce a plan to build a club. In 2019 48 pupils from six schools completed the course.

 The project also delivers a football coaching course and every year all the young people go on a study tour to Germany and is being delivered in partnership with several local schools, colleges and the local Superleague football club..



Mixed Ability Football, bringing a new inclusive dimension to the game

Mark Goodwin, Founder/Director, Mason Faulkner, Project Manager, International Mixed Ability Sports

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In 2015 Bradford in West Yorkshire hosted the first Mixed Ability Rugby World Tournament and there are now around 20 mixed ability rugby teams around the UK. The inspiration for the first English Mixed Ability football team came from Anthony Brook, a young man with Cerebral Palsy and Learning Difficulties, who refused to accept that he could only play an adapted version of the game he loves and only play it with other disabled people. In the summer of 2016, the first Mixed Ability Football Festival was run in partnership with Mencap Doncaster Rovers’ 5 a-side pitches with teams from as far as London, Liverpool and Nottingham to South Yorkshire. The tournament has now run annually for 4 years and it has positive impacts for wellbeing, physical and mental health, friendship and relationship building at all levels. From the tournament, a min- league has been developed in South Yorkshire and what’s unique is that players are not graded, judged or identified as disabled. Participants are male or female and could have down syndrome, a physical disability or no impairments. .


12.05 – 12.40 Two workshops (delegates will have to decide which one they want to attend,

but will also receive the slide presentations for the other workshops).  

What football can do for education and what education can do for football

Paul Mitchell – Education Manager at QPR in the Community Trust, FA Tutor

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QPR in the Community works with young people between 4 and 24, developing and supporting them through football and education.The education department has 4 very succinct Whys? Ensuring what they deliver is consistent and progressive. Football Fever is a football project focussing on two areas.Projects include Premier League Primary Stars, a comprehensive school sports programme, Premier League Inspires for Secondary Schools, College Academy schemes for 16-19-year-olds, apprenticeships, traineeships and a foundation degree beginning in September 2020.The effects of these programmes are immense and often unquantifiable, however initially, just keeping young people engaged in education is a success. The cycle of education, employability development through to full-time work with QPR in the Community Trust is proven.Paul Mitchell is a former Partnership Development Manager for a School Sports Partnership and Development Coach for the Youth Sport Trust. Coached in AFC Bournemouth Academy, before working at Palace for Life Foundation and now QPR in the Community Trust. Current FA tutor and student studying MSc Sports Coaching.

How football can reach out and support homeless and disengaged people

Keith Mabbutt, Founder & CEO of The Street Soccer Foundation

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In the summer of 2015 former footballer, Keith Mabbutt launched the Street Soccer Foundation after learning of the plight of homeless people in England. The thought of using the global no.1 sport as a platform to attract, engage and inspire vulnerable young people was compelling.

But just how can football truly help those who are disengaged from our society and currently experiencing homelessness?

In this talk you will hear from Founder & CEO, Keith Mabbutt, on how the Street Soccer Foundation has gone on to become nationally acclaimed, now operating nationwide to deliver its flagship programme, the ‘Street Soccer Academy’, viewed as the number 1 football-led project tackling youth homelessness in England.

With the goal of driving change in the country using the power of football, Keith will provide an insight into the partnership-led approach the Foundation has taken to be able to help change lives, create opportunities, and build better futures for those the Foundation supports.

Keith Mabbutt was recognised by the Centre for Entrepreneurs and The Sunday Times as one of the UK’s most successful Businessmen supporting the next generation, A former footballer Keith Mabbutt, is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur and Founder & CEO of The Street Soccer Foundation.


12.40-13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.00  The Bloomsbury Football Foundation – a hybrid model, between a grassroots football club and a community foundation 

Charlie Hyman, Founder & CEO of  The Bloomsbury Football Foundation

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The Bloomsbury Football Foundation is a charity that uses the power of football to improve the lives of young people. Founded in 2018, Bloomsbury Football are now one of the largest providers of free-to-access football in Central London, working with 3000 children in London every week.

It’s more important than ever for charities to be financially robust and not rely on grants for their survival. From a footballing perspective, we are a hybrid model, between a grassroots football club and a community foundation. We are also a hybrid in a financial sense; most of our income is generated from the services we provide, and we take on additional grants to enhance our programmes and pursue new projects. We think this self-sustained core is important. Too often, youth services stop when funding runs out. We cannot allow our commitments to young people to rely only on the future generosity of others.

Charlie Hyman founded The Bloomsbury Football Foundation in 2018, where he currently serves as CEO. He is proud to have been recognised as a Sport Industry NextGen Leader for 2021. Outside of running Bloomsbury Football, Charlie plays Futsal in the National Futsal Series and has represented England internationally.

The Bloomsbury Football Foundation

14.00 SALISBURY ROVERS FC: it’s your game, play it your way!

Debbie Sayers, Founder/Club Secretary Salisbury Rovers

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Salisbury Rovers FC has established a unique football model. The club prioritises and energetically promotes free play, children’s rights and creativity!The club withdrew from leagues in 2017 and delivers a multifaceted programme of mixed-age football and futsal across multiple settings, including in free community projects.Rovers is four years old this year and has already been rewarded with two County FA Club of the Year awards for its unique football model. The club’s innovative, evidence-based practice has also gained attention nationally and internationally, with its approach being shared on podcasts and in interviews.The club is an activist community. It works to change the grassroots environment for the benefit of kids. In short, Rovers aims to return football to the kids who play the game. To this end, the club has connected with coaches in the UK and abroad to raise important issues about the nature of youth practice and children’s rights at national level: see for example, ‘protection of children in football’ and the club’s recent survey on the mental well-being of volunteers.In 2018, the club launched the #freeplaypledge with coaches nationally and internationally, and from a variety of youth sports, committing to child-led play.Debbie Sayers is the founder, Club Secretary and one of the coaches at Salisbury Rovers. Each week, as a volunteer, she coaches more than 100 children from ages 5 to 16. The coaching includes free play, matches, futsal and football.Debbie has a PhD in human rights law and a commitment to children’s rights lies at the heart of Rovers’ model..

14.30 – 15.00 How a female Afghan refugee is giving refugee girls the opportunity to play football Nagin Ravand, Footballer and Coach, Aarhus, Denmark

Nagin Ravand, Footballer and Coach, Aarhus, Denmark

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Nagin arrived in Denmark with her parents as a refugee from Afghanistan when she was seven years old. She discovered football and realised that she was quite good at the game.

When she was 12, they moved to a new multi-cultural area. And for the whole first year, there were no options for girls to play football and she was very sad because football was her life. 

When they went to the local library and asked if there was football for girls, the answer was ‘What? Girls playing football here? No.’

About two years later, Nagin decided to team up with the local football club, which only had male members. There are a lot of refugee families or people from ethnic backgrounds, and they have a lack of role models. When they saw they were allowed to play football, then everyone just started coming. It was her mission: to make these girls feel equal to every other girl.

Since then  Nagin has won recognition and awards for her great work to encourage females from diverse backgrounds to play football and they learnt to adapt the values of football to society as a whole.

This unique presentation will tell that amazing story. 

15.00 – 15.30 Community Football in 2030 – what will it look like?

Svend Elkjaer, Founder/Director, Sports Marketing Network 

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The world is changing and in many cases that bring new opportunities if we are willing and able to change ourselves, but not if we see change as the enemy and take forever to react to the new world. Community football clubs and providers are not immune to this situation and we who are involved with this sector simply have to embrace change and we could benefit from that change.

This presentation will put forward some options for how in 2030

1. We will cater for both social and competitive sports and develop facilities that are fit for the future?

2. We will embrace technology to engage with participants?

3. We will develop a better relationship with the wider community?

4. We will raise the profile of our clubs/place and our activities?

5. We will be either #JustForFootball or #MoreThanFootball at our clubs and centres?

6. Our staff, coaches and the wider volunteer workforce will look and behave like and how will we look after them?

7. How we will become better at generating sustainable income?

15.30 – 16.00 Panel debate

How do the innovators and entrepreneurs and the traditional community football bodies and clubs work better together and what could the future for community football look like.

16.00 – 16.15 Conclusion and finish