The FAI has signed up with the European Football for Development Network and affiliated every League of Ireland club as part of the Bank of Ireland sponsored More Than A Club initiative.

The move will give all SSE Airtricity Premier Division, First Division and Women’s National League clubs access to a vast bank of knowledge as they look to improve their community engagement.

The European Football for Development Network (EFDN) is an alliance of more than 100 clubs, Leagues, FAs and Football Foundations from 31 European countries who directly benefit from EFDN’s strategic partnerships with the UEFA Foundation for Children, the European Club Association (ECA), Football Against Racism Europe (FARE), Centre for Access in Football Europe (CAFE), the European Union and numerous Football Associations and national governing bodies across Europe.

A networking and knowledge exchange platform, the EFDN membership includes some of the top European club Foundations such as Barcelona, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Chelsea and Everton in the Community along with the likes of Montrose FC and Notts County whilst Bohemian FC were previously Ireland’s sole member.

Other member organisations include the Premier League, SPFL Trust, the Portuguese and Icelandic FAs along with a number of other Leagues across Europe.

“I believe membership of the EFDN will give our clubs an excellent insight into a broad range of Football in the Community initiatives across Europe and direct access to a professional community-focused network with whom they can liaise directly and create useful professional links,” said Community Development Manager in the League of Ireland department, Derek O’Neill.

“Building a meaningful community engagement programme is an essential factor in the sustainability and success of our football clubs. If League of Ireland clubs can become more than just a football team, more relevant and socially responsible community-focussed entities, they stand to gain many benefits.”

“Creating an affinity with their local community can translate into new fans and new commercial opportunities as well as closer links with local businesses and Local Authorities. I hope that our clubs take this opportunity to view up close how other successful Football in the Community schemes operate across Europe and gain some useful tips and insights which can help them as they look to implement their own community engagement programmes here in Ireland.”

Bohemian FC’s new Climate Justice Officer Sean McCabe was one of the guest presenters at this year’s Annual Conference this week.

“As an Associate Sponsor of the League of Ireland and sponsor of the More Than A Club programme, Bank of Ireland is delighted to welcome the association with the European Football for Development Network,” said Bank of Ireland’s Chief Marketing Officer Henry Dummer.

“The More than a Club programme is designed to develop a social enterprise-based model for League of Ireland clubs, by making them key pillars of participation and success in their local communities. Access to EFDN’s Football in the Community network and knowledge base offers the potential for Irish clubs to learn from some of the best community schemes at other clubs across Europe and collaborate via the network.”

“This is another welcome step on the journey to support the continued development of our League of Ireland clubs,” added League of Ireland Director, Mark Scanlon.

“We have recently appointed staff within the League of Ireland department to liaise and assist clubs with various aspects of club development such as Community Engagement, Academy structures, Player Education and Business Development. These are new resources available to clubs as we embark on a renewed strategy to promote the progression and development of our clubs and to make our National Leagues stronger and more attractive. I am convinced our clubs will gain from being members of a strong pan-European alliance of socially responsible football clubs that the EFDN provides and will pick up some useful ideas to implement valuable social initiatives to the benefit of communities around Ireland.”

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