Leyton Orient, since its inception in 1881, is recognised as a Community Club, aiming to raise aspiration amongst the communities that it serves. It achieves this by offering the match day experience; access to first class facilities at the Stadium; playing opportunities through the Academy and via its Community Charity opportunities to tackle some of the profound social and economic challenges that the communities in East London faces.
The golden thread through all of this focus is the role and contribution that the Players make to raise aspiration. Over the past five years the Club and its Charity; the Leyton Orient Trust have jointly invested in employing a dedicated officer who aims to get the Club engaging with the community, including raising the profile and increasing the impact that the players have. This report therefore illustrates the effectiveness of the Liaison role in particular with increasing the profile of the Club by enabling access to Players, free and subsidized tickets and stadium and training ground tours.
1) LOPASS (Leyton Orient Partnership associated schools scheme)
This year was the second of us promoting LOPASS aimed at primary and secondary schools and using the players to engage in curriculum activities using football as the subject medium, leading PE sessions, presenting awards or participating in Q&A sessions. The eight schools selected were also given a dedicated match with complimentary tickets for pupils, but with the added incentive of a 50-50 scheme whereby further tickets can be sold by the school at a reduced rate and the school retains half the proceeds. Pupils were also selected to take penalties at half-time or be flag bearers/guard of honour pre-match. The school are also invited to partake in a stadium tour, a visit to the training ground and a visit from club mascot Theo the Wyvern. To increase the clubs profile, schools are requested to record visits via the schools own newsletters and website (including a link to the LOFC website) plus regular announcements are made via the clubs match-day programme and stories produced on the LOFC website.
The scheme also allowed the schools to showcase their talents with the Norlington School’s drummers entertaining the crowd on match days throughout the season. Leyton 6th Form College also provided singers and dancers, hosted in the Gallery and on the pitch pre-match.
2) Soccer Sevens
In an effort to increase support from slightly further afield including former supporters who have moved from the local area, the Soccer Sevens competition was introduced in 2009. Due to demand, primary school football teams (Year5/6) from Waltham Forest and Kent joined schools from Hertfordshire and Essex to attend the knock-out cup competition hosted on the Score 3G pitch opposite the Matchroom stadium with the eventual winners being presented with a trophy by first team squad members on the Leyton Orient pitch at half time during a League One match. Three rounds of five teams attend on a Saturday match day during the season with the winners and best runner’s up making up the final five for ‘finals’ day. As an added bonus, a first team squad member attends the certificate ceremony at the culmination of each round and a nominated player from each team also gets to go on the pitch at half time and take a penalty against the Orient mascot, Theo the Wyvern!
3) Prostate Cancer UK
Leyton Orient helped the cause by having players and staff grow moustaches for ‘Movember’ and achieving the highest amount raised amongst the 72 league clubs with a grand total of £2,140.00. The club was also one of only six around the country asked to host a ‘Mens Cup’ football tournament and we were delighted to welcome 16 teams to play a 6-a-side competition on the pitch at the Matchroom Stadium. The stadium was also be the starting point for the cycle to Amsterdam on June 6th with three members of staff leading the way including Neil Taylor, CEO of the Leyton Orient Trust.
4) Hospital/Hospice visits
The annual Christmas visit to the local children’s ward at Whipps Cross Hospital was warmly received once again with squad members taking in posters and gifts to children who were unfortunate enough to be there during the festive period. Eileen Elms, ward Matron, said, “The Orient boys are always welcome and cheer us all up, staff too! There is always a buzz around the place when they are here and they are excellent with the children.”
We also continued our association with the Homerton hospital in Hackney and five players dropped into their Starlight children’s ward to deliver gifts as well as dropping into the Regional Neurological Rehab Unit. Leah Harrell, co-ordinator for the unit said, “It was great to have the player’s here once again and I hope they enjoyed the experience. We’re looking forward to visiting the O’s to watch a game in the near future and our relationship with the club is really positive.”
Our two hospice links namely, St. Joseph’s in Hackney and Haven House children’s hospice in Woodford, continue to grow. David Mooney visited St. Joseph’s for the third consecutive season whilst Dean Cox did the same at Haven House, cheering up residents and joining in with activities.
5) Stadium Tours
Schools, colleges and local teams and community groups have the opportunity to visit the Matchroom stadium for an informative ground tour, some even culminating in players attending at the end of the tour to answer any questions the attendees might have about being a professional footballer. The tour consists of a short history of the club commencing in the club reception and using the historical photos that adorn the walls, visiting the Olympic Suite and adjacent Boardroom, checking out the view of the pitch from the media balcony on the 5th floor of the West stand and comparing that to emerging from the players tunnel and sitting in the team dugouts! When the players arrive, a Q&A session can either take place pitch-side or in one of the team changing rooms, depending on the weather of course!
6) Training Ground Visits
We continue to provide the opportunity to visit the training ground for small classes of school, college and other groups to be able to view the facility, watch the players train and then get to chat to some of the players in their own environment. This also allows the students to interview the backroom staff including match analyst, physio, cook and press officer for example, helping to cover a multitude of subjects that could be incorporated within their studies.
7) Football League Girls and Kids Cup
Local knockout tournaments were conducted between 12 schools in the girl’s competition and 16 teams in the boy’s with the winners of the Girls Cup being Chingford Foundation who represented the O’s at the regional finals hosted by Southend United unluckily being knocked out at the semi-final stage. The boy’s school representatives were Chase Lane Primary, also from Chingford, who travelled the long distance to Swindon Town for their regionals. After losing their first game, the boys then clicked into gear and ended up winning the competition, culminating in the ultimate prize of playing at Wembley prior to the League One Play-Off final against their northern counterparts. An exciting day at Wembley concluded with the winner’s trophy being presented to Leyton Orient’s representatives, Chase Lane after they had beaten rivals Nottingham primary school representing Notts County 1-0.http://www.leytonorient.com/news/article/chingford-wembley-110414-1482647.aspx
8) Theo’s Gang
The junior supporters section has two parties per season where the whole squad attend and participate in video games, a disco and the obligatory photo calls and autograph signings! Scheduled just before Christmas and at the end of the season, it gives the junior supporters a great opportunity to get up close to their heroes and they even get to vote for their player of the year, Dean Cox winning the accolade for the third time in four years.
9) Leyton Orient Trust
The charity arm of the club, have a multitude of activities that continue throughout the year and encompass a huge variety of different age ranges, abilities and therefore types of sessions across six local boroughs. These can include school curriculum lessons, after-school clubs, holiday programmes, working with those with special needs and/or challenging behaviour to name but a few. The Trust also funds and delivers a number of key external projects including:
10) National Citizens Service
This government initiative was introduced to encourage 16 year olds to provide a 30 hour project designed, developed and delivered by themselves, within their local community with the help and guidance from their local football club who supply the mentoring and expertise to help the young people conclude the project. A player is designated as the project ambassador and to help out with the launch, attending sessions and helping to motivate the participants and this year the group were privileged to have club captain Nathan Clarke supporting on numerous occasions. And even team manager Russell Slade popped in to give a motivational talk during the project phase.
11) Coping through Football
The Coping through Football project, in collaboration with the London Playing Fields Foundation, North East London Foundation Trust (NHS) and Leyton Orient Trust, harnesses sports best attributes to help build the self-esteem of mental health service users and seeks to provide an alternative to the traditional reliance on medication as a treatment for depression. LOFC players attend at regular intervals to show support to the scheme and always attend the annual Mental Health Day tournament and help out refereeing as well as present the post event awards.
12) Extra Time
Now in its fourth successful year, the project delivers various sporting and musical sessions to the over 60’s and usually in their own surroundings. Boccia is the most popular of the sports played although pool and dominoes can be contested and there is a Tea Dance held at the Score centre twice a year. Occasionally there are special events such as a piano recital hosted by one of the centres associated with the project.
13) Wider Links
There are many other requests for player’s appearances and support from the club throughout a season including various charities such as Sport Relief, Know the Score (bowel cancer) and Waltham Forest’s own White Ribbon Campaign (Violence against Women) plus annual regulars Kick it Out and Show Racism the Red Card plus players will come and support the Trust’s learning programmes.
14) Community Player of the Year
One player that embodies the spirit of the club and its work in the community is Elliot Omozusi. Originally joining the Club in 2010 Elliot found himself in trouble with the Police and was subsequently imprisoned in 2011. In late 2012 he was released and decided to rebuild his life and career. Leyton Orient gave him that second chance on the pitch but also wanted Elliot to prove himself and make his contribution off it.
Since his return to the club in January 2013, Elliot has been a revelation. Not only has he established himself as a first team regular with his constant solid performances, he has made himself available at any time to visit a variety of groups, youth organisations, educational establishments and community activities, talking about his early playing days, the highs of playing for Fulham in the Premiership to almost giving up due to lack of opportunity and leading on to the ultimate low of spending 16 months in prison for intimidating a witness.
As Elliot acknowledges: ‘I guess I was naive thinking that if I didn’t get directly involved with crime I would be okay, but literally being associated got me into trouble. I have friends who are inside for life and being there it has taught me a lot and that what happens after, well the opportunities are limited. That was the scary thing, not knowing what to do after. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have Football.
His audiences are always spellbound with what Elliot has to say as he expands on his career history and his prison experience and how he admits to being lucky to have been given a second chance in professional football. Coming from the communities that the Club serves, Elliot is well placed to connect and communicate on a level to other young people who may be tempted to take the wrong turn.
In recognition of his efforts, Elliot was short listed as the PFA’s Player in the Community of the Year Award at the Football League Awards.