EFDN Interview- Michael Colquhoun from Burnley FC in the Community

21 January 2021

EFDN Interview- Michael Colquhoun from Burnley FC in the Community

During this difficult time, EFDN would like to provide CSR-professionals with inspiring news articles, resources and updates on the work carried out by our members. We will start again to publish an interview with a football CSR practitioner every week.

This interview features Michael Colquhoun.  Michael is the Head of Community Welfare and Inclusion at Burnley FC in the Community. This role oversees the Inclusion and Health departments. As many countries are experiencing further lockdowns and everyone’s mental health is suffering due to the global pandemic, we asked Michael Colquhoun several questions about their mental health programme in schools, tips for other football organisations and why Burnley FC and Burnley FC in the Community are #Morethanfootball.

Michael Colquhon (on the left) next to programme participant and Burnley FC first team player Jay Rodriguez.

EFDN: What is a typical day in your role like? What do you love the most about working for your organisation?

In recent weeks and months there has been no typical day with the ever changing restrictions and advice related to Covid-19! However, I oversee a number of programmes so this brings with it various staffing needs and guidelines which I must deliver. The range of programmes I oversee includes Premier League Kicks, Targeted Kicks, Health initiatives and our dedicated Veterans Programme. I am lucky to have a strong staff base working on all of these programmes to ensure they run smoothly. A typical day may involve liaising with these staff members and ensuring they have everything they need to make programmes a success.

I have been working at Burnley FC in the Community for nearly 3 years now and I am very proud to work for the charity in my current role. Although I am not from the North-West of England and the local area, I very much enjoy working in the local community and helping to bring unique opportunities through the charity to ensure everyone has something which appeals to them.

The charity’s values fit with my own and there is an extremely strong work ethic and passion for change throughout the club as a whole.

EFDN: What are the main objectives of your foundation?

Here at Burnley FC in the Community we have recently updated our values and ethos. We have focused on the following four: Passionate, Integrity, Inclusive, Resilient.

We believe in the immense power of our football club to transform people’s lives for the better. We work hard every day to deliver our mission across the communities of Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, the Ribble Valley and West Yorkshire.

Our work is channelled into key areas: Education & Employability, Community Welfare & Inclusion, Football Development and Community Facilities. Our highly-skilled, dynamic and passionate team now deliver over 50 community projects that touch the lives of a huge spectrum of people in and around Burnley. From children and young people right through to senior citizens.

EFDN: What is the Schools’ Mental Wellbeing Project? Can you please explain in more detail what it is about, including the objectives and the impact this programme aims to have in the community?

Our Mental Wellbeing Project is a three-year funded project that is currently being delivered in eleven secondary schools within Burnley and Pendle.

Supported by the Premier League, the Professional Footballers’ Association, Burnley Borough Council, East Lancashire CCG and all the schools involved, the aim of the project is to support young people with their mental wellbeing by having a full time BFCitC Mental Wellbeing Worker in each of the eleven schools.

The BFCitC staff members support students identified as needing help with their mental wellbeing, by offering a range of interventions in both one-to-one and group settings. The Wellbeing Workers also help raise awareness of mental health within their respective schools, educating parents, students and teachers alike to make the school ‘a mentally healthy school’.

Our aim is to ensure student’s well-being is being met, and it has never been so important with the current challenges we face related to Covid-19 and sustained periods of lockdown. We have become a crucial and integral part of each school’s staffing base.

EFDN: Did you provide BFCitC staff with specific training to deliver the programme?

All staff receive an extensive induction to the programme which includes Safeguarding Training, Monitoring and Evaluation Training, and resource training to ensure that staff are armed with the correct tools when working with young people.

Staff are encouraged to share their expertise with colleagues, as many bring a wealth of experience and knowledge with them to the role. Internal and External training is provided regularly to ensure staff are equipped in dealing with some of the challenges and issues they may face.

Our dedicated staff project team includes extensive support at all times for staff, from myself, to our Project Manager and our Safeguarding Officer, all the way in to schools and their support systems.

EFDN: What feedback did you receive from participants, schools and partners?

We have received plenty of positive feedback for our project from partners, but none more so from the schools themselves. It has been heartwarming to see schools send us messages to compliment staff, indicating the brilliant work they have done to date has not gone unnoticed. This relationship is such a key element to the success of the programme.

Participants have also expressed their appreciation for the support they have received from staff, whom they have formed close relationships with. Again this has been great to see, as nothing is more important than the participant and worker relationship and that a safe space is created for the participants to discuss their emotional and mental health.

EFDN: What challenges have you faced during the pandemic and how have you overcome them?

To date, as a charity we have faced many challenges during the pandemic, none more so than recently with tighter restrictions and government advice changing rapidly to adapt to the new strain of Covid. We have always ensured a flexible approach and stayed in close contact with the schools we work with, this has ensured transparency and that quick decisions can be made.

Our staff have been nothing short of amazing in their response to restrictions. They have had to deal with various issues and have adapted to the ‘new way of working’ admirably. Without their ongoing understanding and flexibility, we would not have been able to continue to deliver this crucial work.

EFDN: Do you have any advice for our members on how to address the mental health topic?   

I know from working closely with colleagues across the English Football network that some clubs and their charities already do brilliant work around the topic of mental health. We have enjoyed liaising with other clubs to learn from the work they are doing and we have also been proud to showcase our unique project with them.

Our project’s strength is in the staffing. We are lucky to have a qualified Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (Hayley Quinn) as our Project Manager and a really strong base of workers who have come from varied backgrounds including NHS and CAMHs.

My advice before starting a project related to Mental Health would be to ensure your staffing experience is appropriate and to also speak to the experts in the community such as National Health Service providers and charities who have been undertaking this work for years.

EFDN: What makes the role of clubs and their foundation’s so important during this crisis?

We are all living and working in unprecedented times, and as a charity, we have been on a profound journey this season, but we have adapted well and reacted to the changing circumstances to continue to make a positive impact on the town of Burnley and it’s surrounding areas. 

We have seen the importance of football club’s and their charitable arms throughout this pandemic and a lot of our programmes have continued throughout restrictions, including vital education support, one to one sessions with at risk young people, and phone calls to vulnerable and isolated individuals. This has also included our foodbank support, and the amazing job the staff there have done to provide people with the very basics of essential items.

As a focal point in the town of Burnley, we have worked in partnership with local organisations to ensure that people are not forgotten and always have support during these tough times.

EFDN: Talking about your mental health. How do you stay safe, healthy and fit? Do you have any tips or advice?

I can admit to finding periods of lockdown challenging as no doubt millions of others will have too. I have found the lack of social interaction the most challenging as I am an outgoing person.

I ensure I exercise regularly and I find this really helps to keep a healthy mind as well as body. I make sure I run a lot and I also enjoy cycling. Recording this on the app ‘Strava’ helps me maintain motivation and also look back on exercise and know I have achieved something.

A colleague at BFCitC (Gwil Jones) and I are taking part in a charity cycle shortly where we will cycle from Burnley FC to Tottenham Hotspur FC when the two sides play each other in the Premier League. This will take around 2.5 days to complete and be approximately 260 miles of cycling. This end goal has really helped me stay motivated with regards to fitness and knowing that I have to train.

EFDN: EFDN believes that Football is #Morethanfootball. Why do you think your foundation is #morethanfootball?

As the charitable arm of Burnley Football Club, we see the power of football and its ability to transform lives. Our team is passionate about making a difference through our community projects and we work with people of all backgrounds and ages in our local community.

Our work encompasses Gender Equality, Education, Inclusion and Mental Health as well as many other areas.

We are proud to be a charity who is pioneering and leads from the front on these areas and we believe that Burnley FC in the Community is #morethanfootball.

EFDN: To whom would you like to #passiton to, and why?

Matt Parish – Liverpool FC. With Matt being the Head of Foundation at LFC Foundation it is always great to hear what programmes he is introducing and developing.

If you want to know more about Michael Colquhoun and his work at Burnley FC in the Community, you can visit his LinkedIn profile.


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