How I help connect first-team players and the local community

3 Oct 2023
Premier League PFA Brian Matovu

Arsenal's Brian Matovu explains the impact of his role which is funded by the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association

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For the last 13 years, the Premier League and Professional Footballers’ Association Community Fund has enabled clubs across England and Wales to deliver programmes tailored to specific needs in their communities.

This relationship also delivers coaching programmes to increase diversity in the workforce, player welfare schemes as well as support for Academy players.

These two strands of the PL PFA Fund have come together at Arsenal, where it has allowed the creation of a pilot role that connects first-team, Academy and Women's players with the club's community work.

Here, Arsenal's Club Link Officer Brian Matovu explains what his job entails.

"I encourage Academy players and scholars to take part in community work such as Q&A sessions or coaching participants.

"Both the club and Arsenal Academy Manager Per Mertesacker have acknowledged that we need to continue to build strong young Gunners and one of the ways to do that is to get them involved within community work, get them engaged with regular people, who look like them, who talk like them.

"I'm primarily stationed at the Arsenal Community Hub, where a significant portion of our activities takes place. However, I do make multiple visits to London Colney each month to establish a familiar presence and foster relationships with academy players.

"The impact is hugely positive for the participants; they get to meet Academy players who are not that much older than them and from the same communities. They can relate.

"It can bring a smile to someone that's gone through a tough time. That one meeting, word of encouragement or positive message and what it can do to someone's confidence and motivation is mind blowing.

"The response I get from the players is fantastic. They understand the importance of community work but sometimes they don't know the best ways to give back.

Premier League PFA Brian Matovu v2

"Players are now coming to me and saying, how can I get involved? Can I come to a session this week? It just shows the importance of this role as well as the appetite from the players to get involved in the community.

"We have had many events during the season that Academy and women’s players have taken part in... a community pitch opening in Hackney, coaching community football programme students at the training ground or getting involved with a foodbank project.

"Although my role is specifically with the Academy, I have been able to build relationships to help with first-team engagement and the process of producing things like player messages for events or campaigns has become much easier.

"This a very special programme. There are so many opportunities and so much potential to go even bigger.

"I'm really grateful to the Premier League and the PFA for the funding. It's so important. Hopefully we can get to a point where there’s a permanent role like this at every club.

"I didn't have many role models growing up in south London, so this means a lot to me because I know the impact that players can have within their community."

Club Link Officer roles are supported by the Premier League and Professional Footballer's Association.

Administered through the Premier League Charitable Fund, the PL PFA Community Fund helps football clubs to tackle inequality and respond to local challenges, supporting people and their communities to be more inclusive.

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