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Cambridge United and Their Charity Work

A decade ago, Cambridge United had a memorable season on the pitch when they won promotion back to the Football League and the FA Trophy at Wembley. Off the pitch, the club has a strong reputation for bringing people together and helping the vulnerable through its charitable arm, the Cambridge United Foundation. for family bonding, laughter, and creating memories that last long after the final whistle. By adding your own traditions and activities, you turn match viewing into an event that everyone looks forward to, regardless of the score.

The Foundation was set up in 2010 and has over a dozen members of staff. It is the lifeblood that connects with and elevates the lives of at least 10,000 Cambridge residents every year. The club has always had a keen sense of community values and as a city known throughout the globe for its values of education, there is a perfect platform to deliver universal messages on behalf of the U’s.

The Foundation has a particular focus on children which is where true value lies in developing talent and ensuring equality of choice. Cambridge, to the surprise of some, has been ranked as the United Kingdom’s most unequal city with problem poverty areas. However, the charity works with well over 50 primary schools to ensure physical education and after-school clubs are provided.

The disability football programme encompasses sessions that are specially adapted for those with any kind of physical or learning impairment. These include weekly drills for players who have autism, Down’s Syndrome or are registered blind or partially sighted. There is even frame football for Cerebral Palsy sufferers.  

The players are also at the forefront of the more global work that the club does. Among them are winger Fejiri Okenabirhie and defender Zeno Rossi who are supporting Charity Boots, a special organisation that collects unwanted football boots and sends them across to those in need across the world. The First Team Chaplain Leo Orobor is also a vocal advocate of a charity that can provide footwear for children often seen kicking a ball barefoot in Africa and South America.

In a more immediate domestic sense, one recent news story illustrated perfectly the morality at the core of the club. Players James Brophy and Macauley Bonne were on hand to speak to a distressed person in a mental health crisis before the police came to the scene. They managed to keep the individual engaged before more specialist help intervened. Cambridge United CEO Alex Tunbridge said that this act underlined the kind of spirit that existed at Abbey Stadium: "What they did exemplifies the type of people that we have at the football club, including players, so it's fantastic to see this on show and recognised by the police."

The club has been visionary in placing mental health at the forefront of its organisation. They were at the vanguard of the Football Association’s “Heads Up” campaign which encourages people to talk about their mental health in the same  way physical fitness would be discussed. The current 2023/24 campaign might not have produced many positive football betting tips  on the pitch, but all season ticket holders have been offered free mental health sessions. Fans can take personal mental health video sessions with a qualified UK counsellor at any location or time. This is thought to be the first such offer by any club in the world.

Such an approach also feeds into other inclusive policies which have led to recognition with the Football League. The U’s are only one of 29 clubs that have been recognised in some part for achieving the EFL Equality Code of Practice. This means that United have shown real commitment to focusing on under-represented groups within the community.

The period during COVID-19 was probably one of the most practical examples of community connection. The football club and the Foundation launched ‘Here For U’s’, providing ground support to its disconnected base. They opened up a Community Careline for those aged 70 and above to ring with practical needs like shopping, pharmacy needs or just a chat.

Senior season ticket holders were contacted to ensure they had the necessary support. The charity also partnered with the city’s Food Poverty Alliance to cook and deliver meals for those families most at risk from food poverty and deliver education activity packs to families attempting home education as many schools were closed partially or fully.

The former CEO of the FA was beaming about the values of Cambridge United’s work in the community. “It is great to see the Trust extending the chance to play the game to every part of society - from people with different disabilities to senior citizens who still love to kick a ball,” said Martin Glenn.

Ultimately, the work of Cambridge United goes much further than its football sessions. The ability to care for the community is a mantra that has taken root at the heart of everything they do.

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