Montrose Community Trust is a Supporter of Each Other
Montrose Community Trust supports the local community throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and launched, for instance, a community assist programme.
Barcelona’s motto may pronounce that they are more than a club but ownership of the concept has always been equally shared by outposts far beyond Catalonia. In the small coastal town of Montrose, the importance of the senior football club to its community has long stretched beyond the joy and desolation that come hand in hand with promotion and relegation from the lower leagues.
Like every club of every size in Scotland, its true social impact cannot simply be gauged by three points won or lost on a Saturday.
The work of the Montrose Community Trust was invaluable in the Angus town long before coronavirus entered the lexicon. And now the virus is here, its importance to every day life is only going to become more apparent by the day.
Peter Davidson, chief executive of the Trust and a member of the Links Park board, needs no one to remind him that there is only so much anyone can do to deal with the pandemic. But like so many in his position up and down the country in these dark, troubling times, there is a steely determination to do whatever they possibly can.
‘We’re very community focused,’ he said. ‘As a charity, we engage with 1,000 people each and every week.
‘We’ve only got 11,000 people in our town so that’s just short of 10 per cent of our population from 18 months old to those who are 90 odds.
‘A lot of people not only use us but rely on us for some of the programmes that we run. These cover mental health, struggles with alcohol, school-based education programmes and many others.
‘We’re only able to deliver about 20 per cent of our projects because of the situation at the moment so we want to put our staff and volunteers to good use.
‘We’re going to launch a community assist programme where our staff might be able to help members of the community with shopping, prescription pick-ups or just talking with people. We may even try to hold some kind of remote football memories sessions for people who are isolated but are used to attending them.‘We’ll act as a central point to recruit and deploy volunteers who will understand these tasks.’
The sense of order and purpose at the Trust in the midst of the biggest threat to every day life in Britain since World War Two is absolutely no co-incidence. The third hat which Davidson regularly wears is as a board member of EFDN – European Football for Development Network – a body which also sees a total of eight Scottish clubs – Montrose, Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Dundee, Morton, Hearts and Hibs – interact with a diverse range of continental sides to see how clubs can help the communities around them. The most recent meetings focused the minds of all present on how best to tackle the pandemic. ‘It’s a collaborative of around 70 of the most community focussed football clubs in Europe,’ Davidson explained.
‘During discussions on the EFDN board a few weeks ago and we could see that the virus was being strongly felt in Northern Italy and the like.
‘EFDN staff have been working on an initiative called ‘Supporter of Each Other’ where we’ll encourage clubs to do all they can to support those who are most vulnerable in their communities during these times.
‘So with our European hat on, we at Montrose started to make provisions as we knew we were just a few weeks behind the curve.
‘We made plans in the hope we’d never need them but it’s now escalated to the point where all of our administrative staff are working from home and we’re ready to do what’s needed. Football is a powerful tool. Let’s put it to good use’
The diversification comes from a deep sense of duty. It’s Davidson’s sincere belief that the football umbrella they work under has already opened doors that would otherwise be closed to them. In this time of national crisis, continuing to fight the good fight is simply what they’ll do.
‘On a day to day basis, people will engage in our programmes in a way that they won’t with local authorities, drug recovery agencies and health professionals,’ he explained.
‘They engage with us because we are a football club. Football clubs have a unique ability to reach, engage and influence people in a way like no other.
We understand our power and standing in the community.’
‘The community has placed a great deal of trust in us over the years and I think it’s only right that we don’t disappear during these times.
‘We still have to provide that level of support to these people who are perhaps less likely to accept support from statutory bodies.’
With schools in the area are set to close from today, ideally, Davidson would also like to see the facilities at Links Park put to good use. ‘I don’t know if government and local government will allow but I would love for us as a club to be able to provide some sort of respite centre for children if they are off school,’ he said.
‘That would allow health professions in particular to remain at work. But we understand there will be restrictions in that. It’s our responsibility to promote social distancing so I don’t know if that idea is going to be feasible. But we’ll certainly look at it.’
They are proceeding as fast as they can yet with due caution. An appreciation of the need to balance the care of those in the community with the health of staff and volunteers will underpin every decision.
‘We’ve got the welfare of our own staff to consider,’ Davidson stressed. ‘We’re not going to be asking them to put themselves in any difficulties.
‘We’re not going to be able to support people who, for example, have contracted Covid-19.
‘But if we become like Spain or Italy and most people are unable to leave their front door, those who can leave can truly help people. We have our van, our mini-bus and our badge which is well known in this town. We’ll put to good use if we can. We’re armed and ready to support whoever we can.’