It was thirty years ago Preston North End was one of six English clubs who embarked on a new community project aimed at putting fans back at the heart of the game
And this week a host of well known figures from on and off the field came together to celebrate their achievements since the launch of the Preston North End Community Trust in 1986.
The night also served as a tribute to the much loved pioneer of the scheme, former player, Mike Baxter. He was the first community officer for three years until his untimely death aged only 32.
Members of his family, including wife Janet and son Ross, were guests of the evening, which included talks from former midfielder and PNE community officer Oshor Williams, and new ambassador to the trust, Neil Mellor.
Both spoke of the roles of players within the local community and how the experiences benefitted them in their careers after football.
Organisers also took advantage to launch the trust’s new name and logo ‘The Preston North End Community and Education Trust’ and head of community at Preston North End, Andy Haythornthwaite said: “Whilst we move forward as the community and education trust, we remain committed to taking the values that have served us so well throughout the past 30 years into a new chapter for us.
“Education is a key component of the work we do here at the Community trust; from us delivering the school sports programme, to providing education opportunities such as level two and level three diplomas and a foundation degree, and we wanted to correspond that into our name.
“Firstly, we’d like to thank specifically Neil Mellor, Oshor Williams, and the rest of the speakers on the night as well as those who were in attendance, but we’d also like to reserve a special thanks to everybody who has played their part over the past 30 years in helping to shape a community department that Preston North End and the city can be proud of today.”
Others invited to the stage at the event were PNE’s chief executive John Kay, who talked about the club’s role in the community scheme and acting chairman of the trustees and general manager, Ben Rhodes, who spoke to the audience all about how the community scheme gripped him not only into football, but into becoming a Preston North End fan.
There was also a question and answer session with participants and staff able to share their experiences and stories of the community department.
Today the PNE Community has massively developed from the ideas of the original scheme. It runs a wide variety of activities such as soccer schools, educational schemes, futsal and much more.
A spokesperson added: “The club would like to thank everyone who have been involved in “Football and the Community”, ‘The Sir Tom Finney Foundation’ and now more recently, the Preston North End Community and Education Trust over the last 30 years and we hope to continue to achieve great things in the community.”
For more information visit http://www.pnefc.net/fans/sir-tom-finney-community-foundation.aspx