The 2019/20 season has been ground breaking for the Hibernian Community Foundation with the charity’s logo adorning the club’s shirts at home and on the road since July 2019.

Despite the football season being postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the partnership between the club and Community Foundation has been very rewarding.

Proceeds from shirt sales have supported the Foundation’s important work in Edinburgh and East Lothian and there have been many opportunities to spread news of the programmes being supported in the local community.

As the season’s original completion date passes by with no football being played as a result of Covid-19, Charlie Bennett, CEO of Hibernian Community Foundation, reflects on a hugely positive year for the Foundation.

“Being principle partner of the club has increased our profile on a number of levels, especially with Hibernian supporters. A recent survey showed that 25% of Hibernian supporters have learned of the Foundation’s work through the front of shirt initiative.

“The shirt sponsorship has taken our brand worldwide with games being shown on television, appearing on FIFA games and with our story being shared by Hibernian FC.

“Additional advertising boards and placement of HCF stories in and around Easter Road has led to greater support and knowledge of our work from fans and members of our community.

“The development of ‘We Are All Hibs’ continues into next season with our partnership with Hibernian FC and wider community as strong as ever. This tag line has so many meanings attached to it and it is recognised throughout our programmes.”

Looking back on the work carried out over the last 12 months, Charlie is delighted with the opportunities the enhanced recognition and funding has offered the Foundation. With partnerships continuing to grow, the Foundation is well placed to carry on its good work in the local community.

“There have been a number of highlights including the launch of ‘Hibs Class’ which is our marquee primary school partnership programme where Foundation staff are embedded in local schools working directly with students who may need additional support across the school curriculum and also delivering alternative curriculums to disengaged pupils around personal development including leadership and wellbeing.

“We’re part of an Erasmus Plus funded programme where we are working with Feyenoord, Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and Charlton to upskill our staff and coaches where they can support young people in different ways and introduce youth work strategies and techniques into sports coaching to further support the development on the young person. The delivery of ‘Football: More than a Game’ in partnership with the University of Edinburgh has recently saw eight participants successfully pass exams and gain credits that would support university entrance and employability programmes with Leith Academy have also come to fruition in recent months.

“We have developed lots of really strong partnerships with Edinburgh College, the University of Edinburgh and Napier University as well as new partners such as Tesco in Leith.”

Charlie believes the partnership between the football club and the Community Foundation has allowed relationships to grow between both sets of staff.

“The work with the club itself has developed with greater communication amongst departments and shared ideas.  This season has also led to greater advertising and awareness of the Foundation and our work - not only within Hibernian Football Club but within our wider community as well.”

The partnership with the club has allowed new projects to be developed in Edinburgh and East Lothian, with fundraising opportunities on a match day combining with increased awareness of the Foundation’s work.

Charlie explained: “Score Goals, which feeds over 60 children a week in four partner primary schools after exercise and education, was funded through BBC Children in Need and supported by bucket collections before matches at Easter Road and through the donations of supporters in our Christmas Appeal 2019.”

With the Hibernian Community Foundation’s shirt sponsorship coming to an end as we move into the 2020/21 season, the men’s first team squad will sport the words ‘Thank You NHS’ on the front of the club’s shirts when football resumes.

Despite the end of the shirt partnership, the Foundation will have an important role to play in supporting the NHS staff and charities set to be recognised whenever the 2020/21 campaign kicks off.

“A relationship with NHS Lothian has been established with the Gamechanger programme, our links to the North East health partnership, hospital visits and through events such as ‘Festive Friends’ where the Community Foundation works directly with NHS staff to identify those who may benefit from our opportunities most,” Charlie said.

“We hope to maintain our link with the club and their sponsors to complete community activity and support a number of new and existing community members with their needs.

“A number of HCF programmes already support health targets in Leith and East Lothian, this partnership will allow this to grow further and ensure we make an even greater impact on the health challenges that exist in our area.

With the Coronavirus now impacting local communities the Foundation has also faced new challenges as Charlie explains.

“Covid-19 is impacting on the poorest people in our communities and the Foundation needs to find ways to respond to this, and I have been really proud of how everyone in the Foundation has pulled together to quickly put together programmes such as the ‘The Famous Five a Day’ which is delivering food parcels to feed over four hundred people every weekend. In addition, we have developed a range of high quality learning resources that we are making available through our social media channels. We are also planning for what the Foundation should look like when we emerge from the pandemic and are investing in a raft of new resources and a strategy that will support the structured delivery of digital services to our users across a wide range of topics. We can see that other organisations have started to do this as well but we have taken time to create a framework that when we do begin this type of delivery our staff and partners will be properly trained, the technology will be appropriate, tested, and in place, and the content will be of a really high quality.

“Our football offering will be better too and through our investment in new technology everyone in our football programme will achieve a wider range of outcomes around engaging with us.”

Interview and Article by Daniel Shields May 2020