Arsenal Football Club was born out of community and has always understood the power it has to bring people together and reach individuals in a way that nobody else can.
Arsenal Football Club’s history of giving back to its community can be traced back more than 125 years, when early matchday programme cards were sold to raise money for Homes for Working Boys at the club’s former home in Woolwich, south London.
When Arsenal arrived in north London in 1913, one of its first gestures was a financial contribution to the Islington War Memorial Fund and a gift of one thousand guineas to the Great Northern Hospital for the endowment of a bed.
This idea of giving back continued right throughout the decades until Arsenal in the Community was formally established in the early 1980s, responding to the social unrest at the time and to encourage more young people to take part in recreational and competitive sport.
This was the start of ‘football in the community’ and with the support of Ken Friar OBE and the backing of the board, Arsenal Football Club was proud to be there from the beginning.
Alan Sefton was invited by Ken Friar to join Arsenal’s fledgling community sports teams in 1986 and help develop the schemes. The engagement started with the local community coming to Highbury to its Sports Centre behind the Clock End at the club's former home.
As soon as the community programme started, it became a hive of activity hosting soccer schools, indoor bowls, fitness training and a sports college for the department’s trainees. The training programme has been the cornerstone of Arsenal in the Community from the very beginning and many former trainees are still with Arsenal Football Club or in jobs which serve communities such as policemen and teachers. The Arsenal Ladies began as a trainee scheme too.
The Sports Centre soon reached capacity and outreach work began. Sports coaching at schools became an integral part of the programme. While Arsenal was used to engaging young people through sport, the idea of motivating and encouraging young people at school using Arsenal as the hook was soon developed and as a result several education initiatives have been introduced and developed.
Over the years, the club has developed community programmes across a range of areas which deliver both sporting and social outcomes. Projects range from sport and education, to health and social inclusion which are often a springboard to training and employment.
In recent years, Arsenal in the Community’s outreach work has taken place on estates and parks - offering local young people the opportunity to play football and take advantage of the other education, social inclusion and employment pathways the Club offers. Through grants made by The Arsenal Foundation a number of pitches and spaces have been upgraded creating more places to play football and engage young people.