The 2018/19 football season saw Brighton & Hove Albion FC secure Premier League football for a third consecutive campaign and reach the club’s first FA Cup semi-final in 36 years.
What Seagulls fans may be less aware of, however, is the significant impact the club’s official charity, Albion in the Community (AITC), is having on people across Sussex – and particularly here in Brighton and Hove.
AITC uses the popularity of football and the football club to attract people to take part in more than 60 different projects or regular sessions, all aimed at improving the health and wellbeing, education and aspirations of the local community.
Across Sussex, the charity works with more than 148 schools, helps local people improve their job prospects by delivering hundreds of nationally-accredited vocational courses, and runs more than 30 regular football sessions which are attended by more than 450 people with a disability.
Here in Brighton and Hove, AITC is tackling a range of local inequalities and social challenges, working alongside other local organisations, community groups, and local people of all ages.
For example, AITC’s Speak Up Against Cancer campaign is helping to increase early detection of cancer among men and women living in the city.
The project, which is commissioned by NHS Brighton & Hove Clinical Commissioning Group and
Brighton & Hove City Council Public Health, was launched to boost local screening rates, which are below the national average, and to raise awareness of the early symptoms. With most cases of cancer more likely to be successfully treated if caught early, raising awareness of the signs is key to combating the disease.
Since the start of the 2018/19 football season, AITC and its team of Speak Up Against Cancer volunteers – all of whom live locally and have personal experiences of cancer – have met face-to-face with around 5,000 people, sharing potentially life-saving information.
The charity uses creative ways to engage people in its vital messaging, including a giant inflatable pair of lungs displayed in Churchill Square, a walk-through bowel featuring signs and symptoms, a free mole check at a football tournament which saw 200 people get checked by NHS experts, and an eye-catching 10K bike ride which raised awareness of the symptoms of testicular cancer.
AITC is also helping people stay active during and after cancer treatment through its Brighter Outlook project, which provides people with free personalised support. Research shows staying active is safe in most cases of cancer, with benefits including less fatigue, improved mood, reduced risk of cancer progression and decreased risk of recurrence; hundreds of people have benefited from
Brighter Outlook, with the charity accepting self-referrals and people sign-posted to AITC via their GP or other health professional.
If the charity’s health work shows the benefits of working with partner organisations, AITC’s inclusion work in the city is a perfect example of community demand-led delivery. AITC runs weekly football sessions at five venues across Brighton and Hove as part of its wider Premier League Kicks project, with more than 350 young people attending the sessions here in the city.
The sessions are free to attend and combine football and regular exercise, with mentoring and lifestyle support; young people are also encouraged to volunteer in their local area and attend regular workshops on subjects like anti-racism and health and nutrition.
Nowhere is its impact more appreciated than in east Brighton, where residents of Whitehawk, Manor Farm and the Bristol Estate have identified activity and addressing health inequalities as key community priorities as part of the area’s neighbourhood action plan.
With research showing the majority of people living in east Brighton experience one or more indicator of health deprivation, activities which promote regular exercise but which have financial barriers removed, are essential to provide the support the community is asking for.
Matt Dorn, the charity’s chief executive, is adamant working with the local community to address inequalities is key to AITC’s success.
He said: “As a charity we are absolutely committed to supporting our local community and we are incredibly proud of the work we do here in Brighton and Hove.
“Much of our success would not be possible without the support of other local organisations and members of the local community.
“We are determined to continue being a positive influence of the city, by working together with others to help level the playing field.”
For more information on AITC, follow the charity on Twitter at @AlbionintheComm or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about its sessions.