3 August 2022
Entain Announces Extension of Pitching In Trident League Partnership
Community Engagement and Volunteering focus
of unique sponsorship programme
Entain, the global sports betting, gaming and interactive entertainment group, and the Trident Leagues are delighted to announce a multi-year extension of their groundbreaking, community sports investment-based partnership. The extension will provide critical funding in the coming years, backed by the Entain Foundation under the ‘Pitching In’ banner, for the 248 clubs that make up the Northern Premier, Isthmian and Southern leagues - collectively known as the Pitching In Trident Leagues, which make up steps three and four of the national league system.
Initially launched in 2020 the Pitching In partnership was specifically created to provide the financial investment required, to not only to ensure the successful operation of the leagues through the Covid-19 pandemic, but to enable individual clubs to engage with their local communities and make a positive social impact.
The Pitching In partnership has been designed from the ground up to deepen links between clubs and their local communities. The successful delivery of this aim has been supported by two major initiatives, the Trident Community Fund (“TCF”) and the Pitching In Volunteer Hub, both which, will see further investment as the partnership continues.
In December 2020 Entain became the founding partner of the TCF, investing £150k every year specifically to enable clubs to engage in a wide range of vital community-based projects and invest in their local areas. To date over 65 grants of up to £5,000 have been made with a focus on strengthening community relations. Successful projects include; programmes to enable disadvantaged children to participate in football; youth, women’s and disability coaching schemes; community fitness clubs; walking football for older generations; first aid and steward training; youth development schemes and; mental health support. (See notes for editors for TCF case studies).
In May 2022, Entain unveiled the Pitching In Volunteer Hub, a unique online portal that has become a one-stop-shop for every Trident League club to connect football fans with potential volunteers. The Volunteer Hub provides a simple web-based interface through which clubs are able to post volunteering vacancies, while fans can search for available opportunities either at a specific club or based on their location. (See notes for editors for volunteering case studies).
Stuart Pearce, the former England legend and captain, who famously spent over five years in non-league football as a Wealdstone FC player, will continue to serve as the Pitching In ambassador. Commenting on the launch, Pearce said:
“This is fabulous news not only for the Pitching In Trident Leagues themselves but for football in general. It provides a vital injection of cash to help the leagues to thrive but, perhaps even more importantly, it is helping to bring the clubs and their local communities together.
“The Trident Community Fund is just a brilliant initiative to allow cubs to really connect with their local people while the Volunteer Hub is a real gamechanger for promoting volunteering at the community level.”
Entain CEO, Jette Nygaard-Andersen said:
“We are truly proud of what we have achieved with Pitching In and our partnership with the Trident Leagues, particularly in the positive impact it is having on grass roots sports and for social engagement.
“Through the Entain Foundation we are committed to making a positive contribution to grassroots and community sport, which plays such a huge role in the lives of our customers.”
In a joint statement, the Pitching In Trident League Chairs – Nick Robinson, Isthmian League), Mark Harris (Northern Premier League) and Anthony Hughes (Southern League) said:
“We couldn’t be more pleased that Entain are extending their Pitching In partnership with us. This is truly unlike any other sponsorship that we have been involved in. The entire focus of the programme is around how, together, we can help clubs to develop and deepen their engagement with local communities.
“The TCF and Volunteer Hub are fantastic examples of their commitment to non-league football and how it can make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Lisa Attenborough, Head of Corporate Communications
Notes to Editors
About the Pitching In Trident League Partnership
The Pitching In Investment Programme has become the Official partner of the Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmian Leagues which make up the Trident leagues at levels seven and eight of the English football pyramid (steps three and four of the National League System) in a multi-year agreement. The Trident Leagues will have 248 Clubs between them nationwide in season 2022-2023. Rather than promote any of Entain’s products or brands, the Pitching In programme is focused on promoting community engagement through grassroots sport.
Trident Community Foundation – Canvey Island
It’s not just the Canvey Island first-team who are tasting success this season, as the Isthmian League North Division play-off winners hosted a triumphant Soccability tournament in May. The Gulls were among the first recipients of a grant from the Trident Community Foundation, which was launched in December as part of Pitching In's landmark investment into grassroots football. And the Islanders put the money at the heart of the local community, with the eight sides receiving trophies for their part in the action-packed afternoon.
Chairman John Batch believes this is just the start of something very special for Canvey Island's Soccability squad. "I want us to develop it as much as we can and get more and more people involved," said Batch.
"We are trying to start an under-14s side at the moment, we're in the process of doing it, and once again, if we could grow it even more from that, it would be fantastic. "It is all fun related really.
"If they can carry on providing these grants, then clubs like us can keep on investing in things like we are today.
"They'll leave here feeling like they have had an enjoyable afternoon and like they have been part of something because everyone has enjoyed watching them and cheering them on. That is great for their confidence and great for their wellbeing."
Canvey Island were one of five Pitching in Isthmian League clubs to benefit from the first allocation of grants, which will be used to fund new or existing community-focused schemes.
Trophies were presented by Rebecca Harris, Conservative MP for Castle Point, and she was proud to see the excellent work being done by members of her constituency.
"Castle Point and Canvey Island is just stuffed full of people who put the effort in and really recognise the value of making sure that they include everybody," said Harris.
"It is great to see people going the extra mile by volunteering or whatever it takes to make sure that we do the most we can for everybody here.
"Everybody pitches in, to borrow a phrase, so it is a really good fit between Canvey Island and Pitching In.
"I'm just really grateful for everyone who gets involved, makes things happen and gets behind this sort of stuff. It is lovely."
Canvey Island Soccability had Scott Marsh in goal for the tournament and the 27-year-old says the Gulls have been there when he has needed it most.
"The club has actually saved my life on one or two occasions," said Marsh. Throughout the seven years I have been at the club, I have had a couple of knocks in my personal life and with my mental health.
"I've had immense fun today. I do get a bit hard on myself sometimes because I want to save every shot that comes at me or score with a shot on goal, but it's been great fun. "In the past, we haven't even been in a league, so to see we're not playing the same opponents every single time we're on the pitch is great. I like a challenge."
Trident Community Foundation – Marine
Marine FC delivered a fantastic festival of football to get girls active after receiving vital funding from Pitching In’s Trident Community Foundation. After providing free coaching to secondary schools in the wider Crosby area, 130 girls and 12 teams participated in the tournament run by Marine in the Community.
The charity was launched in 2019 and provides services like walking football for seniors, a community café and free line dancing. MITC Director Graeme Gardiner was delighted with the success of the tournament, which was held at a local sports centre.
He said: “It was brilliant. Seeing girls playing football and enjoying it was the ultimate goal.
“As supporters, we got a girls football team going at Marine, so we now have a ladies team. The funding we got from Pitching In, we did over two full half-terms of free coaching for local secondary schools. Each week, we were sending in coaches to local secondary schools to get girls playing football and to get them active. A lot of the schools don’t have the time or people to do it. We were able to go in and deliver these free coaching sessions for over 14 weeks.
“It culminated in a really great festival. We had prizes, medals, certificates, and the trophy. Really the coaching was to get them going and then the carrot was the tournament to play in at the end. Now we’ve got the schools involved, we’ve got the girls involved, we want to develop it further now.”
The community section of the Northern Premier League Premier Division has been thriving ever since its inception, boosted by a lucrative home FA Cup tie against Tottenham back in 2021. Despite lockdown restrictions that meant no supporters could attend the third-round fixture that pitted two sides a record 161 places apart, 32,000 virtual tickets were sold at £10 each.
Gardiner said: “The knock-on effect is huge because what’s happened now is people are talking about Marine Football Club, they’re talking about their local community club.
“We’ve got more young people coming to the games, we’ve got parents coming down with the kids to watch games. We’re getting kids fitter, we’re getting them more engaged.”
But perhaps MITC’s biggest triumph was a scheme run over the pandemic, which involved approximately 5,000 free lunches delivered to isolating individuals.
Gardiner said: “We’ve gone from strength to strength with what we’ve been doing. We were doing great and then Covid comes along and like with everything it stopped.
“We had a community café that was running but we came up with the idea of taking out lunches to the people who were shielding.
“We started with delivering around 25 but within no time we delivered over 60 lunches a week, right from the start of the pandemic and we finished it three weeks ago. We did it for two full years.”
Volunteering – Colne
A long-serving volunteer known as ‘Mr Colne’ hopes his sterling service over more than a quarter of a century can help inspire the next generation to help out at their local club.
Rugby union was Richard Harries’ original sport of choice but his son’s love of football led him to Holt House and he has been part of the furniture for the vast majority of the club’s existence since 1996.
From pitch maintenance to security and grass growing to drainage, Harries relishes getting stuck in but, now 70, is calling for younger volunteers to assist with day-to-day life at the Pitching In Northern Premier League club.
“I’ve always enjoyed what I do for the club,” said Harries, speaking as part of National Volunteers’ Week.
“I enjoy seeing the kids come through, and now the development of the girls’ side, as it helps keep people off the streets and gives them something they enjoy.
“For us, it has been a family thing over the years. My wife, Janette, used to run the café on Saturdays and was also the club’s treasurer, my son Neil played for the first team aged 16 - and our springer spaniel, Dexter, is the club dog.
“We’re getting older, so we’re trying to bring through younger people to let them take the reins. There are always jobs that need doing on matchdays and otherwise - people can come and have a go and see where their skills could be used.”
Harries, who represented Colne & Nelson in his rugby heyday, began his involvement through putting up nets and corner flags and never expected the club to play such a big role in his life.
But the team spirit that developed between the hardy band of volunteers kept him coming back and they have clubbed together on countless occasions when hurdles have been presented.
“About six years ago, we had a ground inspection and they said the referees’ changing rooms weren’t big enough – so I built one,” Harries recalled.
“With the help of our volunteers, we got it done to keep the costs down. I’m a plumber and heating engineer by trade and I’m a doer, rather than a thinker - I can’t stand and watch people struggle.”
Harries’ desire to encourage more volunteers at non-league level is shared by Northern Premier League partners Pitching In, who have launched a Volunteer Hub to showcase the opportunities that are available at clubs across the country ahead of the new season.
“Just come and offer your time, see if you enjoy it and get involved,” Harries added.
“A lot of people say ‘I work’ or ‘I have a family’ – so did we. We’d go up in the evenings and there was great craic, then on gameday we all had our jobs and we all got on with it. Everyone has their own niche.”
Volunteering – Cray Valley Paper Mills
An award-winning kit man has credited volunteering at his local club as key to his continued recovery from alcoholism and drug use. Mark Higgins was once a self-professed football hooligan but now lives a much quieter life by getting stuck in at Cray Valley Paper Mills. The 53-year-old was awarded the club’s chairman award for his efforts this season and relishes his role as a valued member of a community club.
“It’s definitely been a positive thing for me,” said Higgins. “I was a hooligan, alcoholic and drug user but I’m now 13 years clean and sober.“
This helped me continue down a better path, it keeps me on the straight and narrow. I really enjoy the atmosphere around non-league clubs. I just concentrate on this and hope that we can keep pushing forward and get promoted.”
Higgins, who first got involved three years ago, has started to take on more responsibilities at the club, who play in the Pitching In Isthmian League South East Division, preparing the ground for private events including parties and wakes.
He helps his son, the club’s groundsman Lee, on a matchday and says that only now can he appreciate the volume of work that goes into running a semi-professional club.
“It’s brilliant to get involved because you’re giving something back to the community,” Higgins added.
“People don’t realise how much goes on behind closed doors. They turn up on a Saturday and everything is ready, but they don’t appreciate the work that goes into it. It’s been a pleasure getting to know the players and management personally. I won the chairman’s award for volunteering this year. The players are always grateful, and the club’s owners are always thanking us too.”
Higgins is an example of the mutual value volunteering can have and Isthmian League partners Pitching In have recently launched a Volunteer Hub to showcase opportunities available across the Trident Leagues.
A trip to Wembley for the FA Vase final in 2019 is among the highlights of Higgins’ time with Cray Valley while he has also developed a close relationship with the players, who enjoyed making the most of a rare mishap.
“I mixed the home and away kit one weekend, so we had the wrong-coloured kit for the game,” Higgins said.
“We had to play in a green shirt, with green shorts and blue socks. That was my biggest mistake so far and we lost, so I got the blame for that one! But it’s nice when you’re doing well in the leagues and going to Wembley was a great experience and day out. It’s nice because you’re always looking forward and there is always something new happening. It’s good to have a bit more involvement than just standing on the terraces shouting.”
About Entain plc
Entain plc (LSE: ENT) is a FTSE100 company and a leading global sports-betting, gaming and interactive entertainment group, operating both online and in the retail sector. The Group owns a comprehensive portfolio of established brands; Sports Brands include bwin, Bet.pt, Coral, Crystalbet, Eurobet, Ladbrokes, Neds and Sportingbet; Gaming Brands include, Foxy Bingo, Gala, GiocoDigitale, Ninja Casino, Optibet, Partypoker and PartyCasino. The Group operates a proprietary platform across core product verticals and in addition to its B2C operations provides services to a number of third-party customers on a B2B basis.
The Group has a 50/50 joint venture, BetMGM, a leader in sports betting and iGaming in the US. Entain provides the technology and capabilities which power BetMGM as well as exclusive games and products, specially developed at its in-house gaming studios. The Group is tax resident in the UK with operations in a total of 31 regulated or regulating territories. Entain is a leader in ESG, a member of FTSE4Good, the DJSI and is AA rated by MSCI. The Group has set a science-based target, committing to be carbon net zero by 2035 and through the Entain Foundation supports a variety of initiatives, focusing on safer gambling, grassroots sport, diversity in technology and community projects.
For more information see the Group’s website: www.entaingroup.com