Abbey Stadium: the heart of a communityBen Phillips

Football has a unique ability to make a difference in society. Up and down the country, people’s lives revolve around their local football club and Cambridge United is no exception. Cambridge United Community Trust taps into the social power of sport to empower its local community and ultimately, to change lives for the better. Whether via the Trust’s Active Science programme in partnership with AstraZeneca, combining science and sport for Year 5s and 6s, their weekly disability sport sessions, or any of their education, inclusion, wellbeing and community engagement programmes; Cambridge United Community Trust is intent on making a positive impact. Cambridge United is about so much more than 90 minutes on a matchday, and their work in the community has never been more important than it is now.

Around this time last year, the Community Trust team were preparing for their annual matchday takeover. Of course, on Friday 13th March, the following day’s game was called off. One week later, Cambridge United and the Community Trust launched ‘Here For U’s’, providing practical, emotional and physical support to its local community. Their vision of being at the heart of a stronger, healthier, more equal Cambridge didn’t change – but the way they delivered that vision did. From Monday 24th March, they opened up a Community Careline for over 70’s to ring up asking for help with their everyday needs – from picking up prescriptions to shopping or having a friendly chat.

Moreover, utilising the club staff, first-team players and board of directors, every single season ticket holder over the age of 64 was phoned to ensure they had the support they needed. Over the next few months, the Community Trust partnered with Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance to cook and deliver over 1700 meals for those families at risk of food poverty, and deliver over 300 education activity packs to families attempting home education for the first time.

“Cambridge United is about so much more than 90 minutes on a matchday.”

The Community Trust, pre-lockdown, ran Senior Lunches, Afternoon Teas and Dementia Sports Cafés for the elderly in the community. Recognising that seniors would likely be facing a longer, more severe lockdown – the Forever United programme was put into action. With seniors’ activity packs, ‘garden gate visits’, virtual afternoon teas and so much more: Forever United kept seniors connected to one another and reduced social isolation. Last season 8719 people benefitted from the various sessions put on by CUCT.

Ben Phillips

With over 54 primary schools engaging in their education programmes each year; and over 1000 Year 8’s completing their 6-week mental health project – the Trust use sport as a tool to inspire, empower and increase aspirations in children and young people. They have continued to do this over the past year virtually.

One person who has benefitted from the Forever United programme is Jean, aged 69. She told Varsity: “I normally attend the monthly senior lunches at the football club which I enjoy for the social aspect. During lockdown I have missed these sessions and seeing friends, I have felt lonely but am thankful for the care line and garden gate visits – where members of the trust have come and supplied me with meals and other provisions.”

“Trust use sport as a tool to inspire, empower and increase aspirations in children and young people.”

Sam Gomarsall, a former Oxford University graduate, who now heads up the Cambridge United Community Trust told Varsity: “Cambridge is an amazing city full of innovation, technology and tradition and I’m proud to call it home. Yet it also has incredible inequality. Almost 1 in 3 children are growing up in poverty in the Abbey Ward, and if you grow up in the same area your life expectancy is almost 10 years less than if you grow up in Newnham. We knew that COVID-19 would have the potential to exacerbate these inequalities, and we wanted to be at the heart of a community-led response to the pandemic. I think what we’ve seen is football clubs, up and down the country, being real hubs for their community. As we look to navigate a route out of the pandemic, divisions which already exist in Cambridge have the potential to be exacerbated. We will strive to help Cambridge build back better as a healthier, stronger and more equal city and we will continue to be there for those who need us most. With multiple opportunities to volunteer, we would love to hear from anyone who would be interested in helping us make a difference.”


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To find out more about Cambridge United Community Trust and to see the initiatives they offer to our community, visit them here;