Every three years or so, Huyton is classified as one of the fourth or fifth most deprived areas in Britain with high levels of unemployment when compared to the rest of England.
“We know we live in a deprived area, but we pull together as a team and our vision is of a football club which can bring the community together”, says Andy Wilson, vice-chairman of a six-strong team made up of Steve Smith, Peter Close, Colin Pryor, Kevin Williams and Dave McClay.
“We all strive for the same goal – we went to make the kids better; we want to make the community better – give every child a level place to start on. It isn’t just about football, it’s a power to change thing. We have, as a community, got the chance to change something here so that the generation coming through have a legacy they can build on.”
That legacy will be establishing a community and sports hub at Jubilee Park in Huyton, a green space which, until recently, lay dilapidated and disused. Having already taken on the management of the park, providing football pitches for junior football and hosting legendary tournaments for teams from as far afield as Spain, the intention now is to secure the park via asset transfer from Knowsley Council and develop the hub as a community and sporting asset for the area.
“We are a community pulling together. We want people to look back and say, ‘Do you know I remember those days at Jubilee Park, they were brilliant, we loved it'”
With the support of Power to Change’s Bright Ideas Fund, Huyton Juniors is testing its vision to develop a multi-purpose community hub that offers both sports facilities and accessible community space. In particular, the hub hopes to offer an indoor artificial grass pitch; provide an all-weather facility for junior football and generate income from hiring the venue for training and leisure matches.
The gym will be available to community and youth organisations at subsidised rates and to residents on a pay-as-you-go basis. A café for centre users and space for hire for community activities and service delivery is also planned.
The charity has undertaken the necessary planning, surveys and architectural work to enable them to proceed with the wider community business idea, which would create jobs and surplus funds to be reinvested back into the facilities.
“When the pandemic hit, Power to Change stepped in again and supported us. We are so grateful to them for that. It’s meant that for two years we have been able to stop charging children to play, when it was safe to do so and invest in PPE to keep everyone safe. How can we charge children or parents when they don’t know if they’re going to have a job or are on furlough with less money coming in? We’re a charity, we help others but we’re also here to help our own. I don’t think there’s another club out there that’s been able to do that.
“We are a community pulling together. We want people to look back and say, ‘Do you know I remember those days at Jubilee Park, they were brilliant, we loved it’. If we can do that for one person or help one player turn professional or semi-pro, it becomes a legacy, not just ‘oh we used to play football there’.”