EFDN was officially established in 2014 but its inception goes back to 2007 in a city in the Netherlands called Breda. The local team NAC Breda wanted to become more active in Community and Social Responsibility. An idea at that time was not very common in the Netherlands for a football club to implement such an intervention.
With a ground breaking challenging brief, The club had a vision of how football clubs in the Netherlands and Europe could work in collaboration, share knowledge and experiences to tackle these social issues. The club came in contact with other clubs in Europe, who shared the same ideas and principles. Together they started an informal network with the idea to create a shared platform that would also prevent wasting precious time and financial resources in creating and implementing initiatives, programmes and activities for a common goal. It became clear that although clubs are competing on the field, the clubs and their foundations were willing to come together and share best practices with like-minded community engaged football clubs.
The process started by travelling and visiting clubs over Europe, seeing at first hand young people in their own environment around Europe. It became clear that young people were sharing the same issues and challenges. It was at this moment there was a passion to create opportunities not only for clubs to share good practice and knowledge but to extend this to young people and bring them together using European exchange programmes. The first challenge was coordinating the first network meeting.
In 2012 the first meeting of clubs came together where 4 clubs from 3 countries collaborated and discussed about his shared vision, from here in the same year the 1st EFDN conference was staged at Emirates Stadium, the home of Arsenal Football Club.
This simple formula brought people, football clubs, and football institutions together to create a platform to work together but the most important element was to share knowledge and experiences.
Following the 2nd EDFN conference in Rotterdam with the founding clubs Feyenoord Rotterdam, Fulham FC, KAA Gent, Valerenga Fotball, Anorthosis Famagusta and Tottenham Hotspur, EFDN was born forming a legal not for profit organisation by Dutch Law with the initial concept focussing on bringing clubs together to share good practice and knowledge, create opportunities for young people by addressing social issues around youth unemployment, community cohesion, health and wellbeing and life skills.
In 2014 the word started to spread due to the tireless advocacy and engagement with the European football family where opportunities started to present themselves, for example establishing partnerships with the European Union through accessing Erasmus Plus fund to deliver youth exchanges to Pan European programmes for clubs and young people.
EFDN now in 2016 is shaped to provide services to its members and non-members delivering Bi Annual Conferences around Europe, Youth & Staff Exchanges & Pan European Programmes to a Network of 45 Clubs over 19 European Countries.
The Network blossoms with collaborative partnerships with the European Union, UEFA Foundation for Children, ECA, FARE and numerous Football Associations and National Governing Bodies across Europe.
The growth of EFDN has been remarkable, delivering programmes and conferences which is having a positive impact on young people and disadvantaged groups across Europe. The network has gained credibility within the industry and with its conferences is attended by recognised figures within sport and business.
The future it is to sustain the levels of professionalism and governance to enable the network to grow organically, serve its members and deliver exciting and innovative experiences for disadvantage people by using football as a tool for social development.