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Title Partner
30 December 2022

How Albion in the Community changed lives in 2022

How Albion in the Community changed lives in 2022

With 2022 drawing to a close, we wanted to reflect on another exciting year for Albion in the Community.

We’ve worked with around 40,000 people this year across all of our programmes, whether that be on football pitch, in the classroom, or at the fitness studio.

The last 12 months have been historic for the Albion, with the men’s first team securing their best-ever league position and the women’s first team continuing to cement their status as an established WSL side.

2022 was also a huge year for women’s football in this country: the Lionesses secured England’s first major trophy since 1966 by winning the European Championships, with an unforgettable 8-0 victory over Norway right here at the Amex along the way.

Here at Albion in the Community we also celebrated a landmark year.

From the launch of our More Than Football men’s mental health football programme to the boom in girls’ football, from reaching the FA Disability Cup final to arranging for Ukrainian refugees to meet their Albion heroes, over the past 12 months we’ve seen countless lives changed through the power of football.

Boot appeal supported hundreds of children in Sussex

Steven Alzate and Joel Veltman crouched next to a box full of donated football boots, smiling and holding their own boots

Hundreds of children who attend our Premier League Kicks sessions were given free football boots after an appeal we held in February.

Before the men’s fixture against Aston Villa last season we held a boot collection outside the American Express Community Stadium, asking Albion fans to donate their unused or unwanted football boots.

We held the boot appeal after identifying a growing number of children at its sessions who can’t afford appropriate footwear to take part.

Brighton & Hove Albion’s men’s and women’s team also backed the appeal, with players from the first teams, development squads, and academy donating their boots.

A number of first team players donated their personal boots to this appeal, including stars like Joel Veltman, Victoria Williams, Steven Alzate, and Maya Le Tissier.

In the following weeks we distributed the boots to hundreds of children who need them most.

Eight schools visited the Amex for PL Inspires event

Girls discussing during a Premier League Inspires event at the Amex Stadium

In March we hosted the Premier League Inspires challenge development day at the Amex Stadium.

Secondary school students from across the south east were chosen by their local football clubs to create a social action project relating to environmental sustainability.

Each of those pupils attended the PL Inspires event at the Amex to learn more about social action, and learn how to promote and improve their own projects.

Five girls from The Regis School in Bognor Regis attended the event representing Brighton & Hove Albion.

They were joined by children from seven other schools across southern England, each representing a different football club: Chelsea, Bournemouth, Southampton, Fulham, Crystal Palace, QPR, and West Ham were all represented.

Rob Josephs, Schools Manager at Albion in the Community, said: “We’re hoping to give confidence to young people to talk about issues around sustainability – both in their community and at their local football clubs.”

Albion’s blind team finished runners-up in FA Cup

The Brighton and Hove Albion Blind FC squad and their coaches posing with their medals after the FA Cup Blind Final

In June, Brighton & Hove Albion Blind FC earned an FA Cup runners-up medal after a valiant display at St George’s Park.

The Seagulls took on RNC Hereford in the Blind Final at the FA Disability Cup on 11 June, with the game broadcast live on BT Sport.

Blind football’s showpiece event took place at the England national football HQ in Burton-upon-Trent, giving the players the chance to play at the facility where England’s national teams play and train.

The final received extensive coverage in the media, with both BT Sport and BBC South East filming video features with members of the Albion squad.

The game was full of dramatic twists and turns; the announcer labelled it the “best final we have ever seen in this competition”, with Hereford ending up victorious after a penalty shootout.

Albion were without three key players – Liam Archer, Brandon Coleman, and goalkeeper Sam Marsden – who had been called up to the England squad to compete in the Blind Football European Championships in Italy.

Record-breaking interest in AITC girls’ football sessions

We saw a massive increase in the number of girls signing up to our football sessions in July, in the wake of the Lionesses’ Euros success.

We had 55% more girls sign up to our football sessions (soccer schools, after-school clubs, and talent pathway sessions) in July 2022 compared to the same month in 2021, and the Euros played a big part in that huge boost.

We also consistently saw our girls’ football sessions sell quicker than ever before throughout the rest of the year, and dozens of girls attended free taster sessions we held throughout autumn and winter.

The Euros were a landmark tournament for women’s football in England. We were lucky enough to have three games hosted at our very own Amex Stadium – two of which featured the Lionesses.

The crowd at the Amex got to witness two record-breaking moments on the Lionesses’ path to glory: the biggest ever European Championship victory in an 8-0 win over Norway, and the biggest ever attendance in a quarter-final during England’s heroic 2-1 victory over Spain.

Matt Dorn, CEO at AITC, said: “Since the Euros, we’ve had a huge spike in girls wanting to play football at one of our sessions.

“At AITC, we’ve been putting a real focus on using the Euros to inspire the next generation of female footballers, so it’s amazing to see it happen before our eyes.”

Albion trio celebrated 25 years of disability football

Three Albion players visited participants at a holiday football camp to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our disability football programme in August.

Around 40 members of the programme came to a football camp at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing, where they enjoyed a day of fun football activities before meeting some special guests in the afternoon.

Joel Veltman was joined by Ecuadorians Jeremy Sarmiento and Moises Caicedo in meeting participants at the football camp.

The Premier League stars met and greeted participants, signing shirts and posing for photos with the group.

As part of the celebrations each participant was given an authentic match-issued Albion shirt from a recent Premier League season.

Coaches also nominated three participants who had showed lots of enthusiasm to receive a special gift; Sarmiento, Caicedo and Veltman each presented them with one of their very own signed Albion shirts.

Paul Brackley, our Disability Manager, was pleased to celebrate the anniversary with such a big occasion.

“The participants have all had a really great day today, playing football in the sunshine and getting to meet some of their heroes too.”

Albion youngsters won gold at Canary Cup

A boy in yellow Albion kit challenging for a football with a girl wearing Manchester United kit

More than 100 young footballers travelled to Norwich to take part in the Canary Cup tournament in August.

Players from our boys, girls, and disability talent pathway squads made the trip to Norfolk for the three-day football festival hosted by Norwich City.

Representative teams from Premier League and Football League clubs across the country took part in the tournament, with 11 different Albion in the Community teams joining in with the fun.

Two of those sides – our under-12s girls and under-14s boys teams – managed to win their tournaments and brought Canary Cup trophies back to Sussex.

Over 100 kids from our Pathway Centre travelled to the tournament to represent Albion in the Community.

Mark Pedrick, Football Pathway Manager at AITC, said the event was a great experience for all the young players involved.

“Our players have had an amazing time this weekend. It’s been a really important experience for them to play against other teams from all over the country and everyone’s had a great time.

Premier League trophy brought to Brighton for anniversary celebrations

The famous trophy was brought to the Amex in August as part of a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Premier League.

Participants in our disability football programme (which is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary) were given the chance to see the trophy in person and pose for a photo.

Former Albion stars Guy Butters, Andrew Crofts, and Gary Dicker also gave the participants an exclusive tour of the stadium.

The trophy was also taken to an AITC summer camp at Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton.

Dozens of children at Dorothy Stringer got the chance to see the trophy up close, and also had a question and answer section where they learned facts about the trophy.

Brighter Outlook launched in West Sussex

People in West Sussex with a cancer diagnosis are now able to take advantage of our Brighter Outlook programme.

Brighter Outlook, a health and wellbeing programme for people with a cancer diagnosis, provides people with free, personalised fitness sessions and advice for 10 weeks.

The programme runs in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, and West Sussex – the latest Brighton & Hove cohort has just successfully completed their course.

Every year we support around 300 people with cancer diagnoses, delivering more than 400 classes along the way. Rosie Sadler, Health Manager at AITC, said: “We’re really pleased to now offer Brighter Outlook in West Sussex. This will mean we can reach even more people with a cancer diagnosis.”

Victoria Williams and Joel Veltman confirmed as AITC ambassadors

In October, Victoria Williams and Joel Veltman were unveiled as Albion in the Community’s official ambassadors for the 2022/23 season.

The two defenders were unveiled as ambassadors in their first official appearance of the season; a Premier League Kicks session in Moulsecoomb.

The pair came to visit kids at the session, helping to coach different football drills and posing for photos with the young participants.

Victoria took up the role of ambassador for the third season in a row, while Joel celebrated his first season representing AITC.

As the captain of Hope Powell’s WSL side, Victoria is used to taking on a leadership role. She hopes that her work as ambassador can help inspire girls in the local area.

She told us, “It’s brilliant, these programmes are so important just to give everyone a chance to have a kick-about and make new friends.

“I always say that’s one of the best things to come out of football, the connections that you make. These kids are getting skills for life here.”

“It’s my first event and I love it, I think it’s really important for kids after school. Instead of being on the streets or somewhere else, they’re playing on the pitch,” Joel said.

Ukrainian children meet their Albion heroes

A group of young Sussex-based Ukrainian children were given the chance to meet some Brighton & Hove Albion stars in October.

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, we noticed a growing number of Ukrainian participants joining our football sessions across Sussex. With many of these children having limited opportunities during school holidays, 15 young participants were invited to the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing for a very special half-term treat.

After taking part in some fun football drills on the Community Pitch in a session delivered by our coaches, the group were given a surprise invitation to watch the Albion men’s first team in training.

Many of the first team stars including Pascal Gross, Solly March, Adam Lallana, and Robert Sanchez came to meet the young Ukrainians after training to answer questions, pose for photos, and sign programmes.

The group was also introduced to Men’s Head Coach Roberto De Zerbi and members of his coaching staff. Their meeting was especially poignant because of De Zerbi’s close personal ties with Ukraine.

The Italian spent more than a year in Ukraine as manager of Shakhtar Donetsk, where he led his side to the top of the Ukrainian Premier League before conflict broke out in February.

When the invasion began, De Zerbi and his Shakhtar squad were taken to a bomb shelter in a Kyiv hotel. Roberto and his coaching staff remained in the country until all of their international players and their families had been safely evacuated.

He said, “It was wonderful to have the chance to meet this amazing group of children.

“I am so glad that they are happy and safe here in Sussex and enjoying themselves playing football with Albion in the Community.”

Roberto and his coaches were delighted to meet the young Ukrainians; they spoke together in Ukrainian and talked about his former club.

Coaches have been particularly taken with one bubbly participant – Valentine, aged 8. Valentine, who now lives in Hove, moved from Ukraine with his father Sergiy.

Valentine is a huge Brighton fan – his bedroom is covered with Albion posters and memorabilia – and he has a special place in his heart for his favourite player Leandro Trossard.

“It was very, very magical [to meet Trossard], he is my favourite player. I have lived here for four months and this was a special day for me.”

Dad Sergiy says that playing with Albion in the Community has made a massive difference to Valentine: “He loves playing football, and we were very lucky he was invited to play with Albion in the Community. It is a dream come true!

Sergiy spoke about how his family were forced to leave Ukraine with almost nothing because of the war.

“We left Ukraine because of the war, we only had two or three suitcases. We had to forget almost everything. We had to quickly, quickly get a train to Budapest, and we were lucky to come to the UK. Now we live in Brighton – it is the best city in the world!”

Brighton kids met Sanchez and Carter for anti-racism Q&A

Spanish ‘keeper Robert Sanchez, defender Joel Veltman, and WSL star Danielle Carter joined a group of children at the training ground in Lancing in October.

The kids, from St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School in Brighton, had a Q&A with Sanchez about his football career.

As part of Albion in the Community’s work to combat discrimination, and because October is Black History Month, the children were invited to ask Sanchez about his experience of racism within football.

Danielle Carter also spoke to the group about the importance of the No Room For Racism campaign.

Danielle is committed to tackling discrimination in the game; she sits on both the Professional Footballers Association Players’ Board and the Premier League Black Players Advisory Group.

Throughout October, Albion in the Community held a series of workshops and lessons designed to teach young people about the realities of racism and how they can help combat discrimination.

Gully’s Health Squad launched – and got featured on MOTD

After a successful trial over the summer, Gully’s Health Squad celebrated its full launch this autumn.

Gully’s Health Squad is a programme designed to get kids eating healthy food, and learning about the benefits of healthy living and proper nutrition.

To help spread the word, Albion first team stars Poppy Pattinson and Joel Veltman visited St Bartholomew’s Church of England School in Brighton in November to meet the pupils.

Joel and Poppy joined in with fruit and veg workshops, before sitting down with the kids to hold a Q&A session about healthy eating.

The Match of the Day cameras visited St Bartholomew’s to capture the whole day, before broadcasting the film live on BBC One on Sunday morning.

Both Poppy and Joel were full of praise for Gully’s Health Squad.

“It’s nice to come in and work with the community, to give back to the kids,” Poppy said.

“I think these interactive sessions are big, it really promotes this balanced lifestyle.”

Signed bauble auction raised £3,600 for AITC

Albion in the Community’s Signed Christmas Bauble Auction raised a fantastic total of £3628.24 for the charity this December.

Albion players and staff signed custom AITC baubles to be auctioned off to fans, with all money raised going towards supporting our life-changing work across Sussex.

New baubles were auctioned off every day for 12 days, with 39 baubles signed by men’s and women’s first team stars up for grabs.

Matt Dorn, CEO at Albion in the Community, was delighted at the response from Albion fans.

“We’ve been very impressed by how much the fans have bought into this campaign. There were more than 1000 bids across the auction, which was amazing to see.

“All the money raised will go towards supporting our life-changing work in Sussex, so we’re really pleased to have raised more than £3,600 in total.”

The auction kicked off on December 1 with baubles signed by Ecuadorian trio Jeremy Sarmiento, Pervis Estupinan, and Moises Caicedo.

The final bauble – signed by men’s head coach Roberto De Zerbi – was released on December 12, marking the end of the auction.

Alexis Mac Allister lit up Qatar with his performances for Argentina, and his signed bauble attracted plenty of interest, with the winning bid coming in at a massive £290.

Several baubles sold for more than £200, including ones signed by skipper Lewis Dunk and Belgian star Leandro Trossard.

Lancing locals invited to training ground for Christmas community event

We were delighted to open our doors to around 100 Lancing residents for a festive community event in December.

Local families were invited to visit the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing to meet the Albion in the Community team.

Our coaches ran football activities on the community pitch, while our health professionals, teachers, and further education tutors all had information stalls to explain the wide range of community programmes we offer for children, young people and families.

Around 50 youngsters played on the pitch and took part in fun football activities, including shooting drills and small-sided games.

The coaches also gave the kids a taste of their work in schools and inclusive football; youngsters could try out what it’s like to play blind or amputee football, and try the Soccer STEM robots to learn more about coding.

Meanwhile parents were invited to meet the AITC team and learn more about what they do in their community – all while enjoying mince pies, teas and coffees, and delicious Piglets Pantry gingerbread reindeer!

From everyone at AITC: thank you for all your support in 2022. We can’t wait to see what 2023 will bring!


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