Matt Everett, newly appointed CEO at Oxford United in the Community, discusses the charity’s ambition to bring positive change to communities through football.

For anyone born, raised or currently living in Oxfordshire, it’s pretty impossible to lead a life without a single passing connection with the county’s only professional sports club.

Extensive coverage in the local media, exciting new stadium plans and matchdays all contribute to people’s awareness and understanding of Oxford United.

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Another key contributor to the club’s presence locally is the work of Oxford United in the Community, which has been the football club’s official charity since 2008.

Personally, it is a great privilege to be appointed as the charity’s new CEO and lead a collective ambition to bring positive change by harnessing the power of football to communities across Oxfordshire.

I've lived in Oxfordshire since I was seven, and supported the club just as long, so to have the opportunity to further increase the impact the club and charity can have in the county is exciting.

Historically, our work has centred around supporting the provision of football-based opportunities for young people through holiday camp delivery which I’m sure many Oxford Mail readers have engaged with either as a parent or participant over the years.

It’s one of four paid-for programmes we operate as a charity – the others being after-school clubs, skills centres and our Development Centre which acts as a pathway into the club’s academy.

Oxford Mail: Oxford United in the CommunityWhat really sets these paid programmes apart from commercial organisations offering similar activities is not only the draw of the Oxford United badge, but also that profits from these activities help to fund our range of community programmes.

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So, when you choose an Oxford United in the Community course, you are directly helping us to have an impact on people’s lives in Oxfordshire.

It is these social impact programmes which really drive our commitment to inspiring happier, healthier and better-connected communities.

They include weekly disability football sessions for those who otherwise may not have the opportunity to engage with organised sport. Also, Oxford Phoenix FC - our dedicated football team for refugees and asylum seekers living in Oxfordshire.

Add to the list Premier League Kicks and Premier League Primary Stars – our youth and school engagement programmes – plus the Manor Club, Twinning Project with HMP Bullingdon and regular delivery with partner organisations and you’re left with an operation which can positively impact people of all ages and all abilities.

Not appreciating football’s power to change people’s lives is something I believe almost everyone is guilty of at some stage during their adult life.

It can be so easy to be sucked into the results-driven focus that naturally attaches itself to professional sport.

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But take a step back and you’ll see how we can use the Oxford United badge, the influence of former and current players and the outstanding knowledge of our programme leads and community coaches to help people become the best version of themselves.

Oxford Mail: Oxford United in the CommunityOne example of this process happened earlier this month when our disability football squad hosted Northampton Town in a friendly fixture at the club’s training ground.

Turn the clocks back a year ago, and our disability team didn’t even exist.

Now, over 35 people have engaged with at least one session – many of whom have experienced behind-the-scenes tours of the training ground, visits from club legends and the opportunity to play competitive fixtures.

We’re an ambitious team, underlined by our new year announcement of three senior appointments, including myself, to lead the team in 2024.

We’re pleased to confirm Kerrie Bates as our new Operations Administrator to fuel these growth plans.

In addition, Chris Lowes has become our new Chief Operations Officer – 19 years after accepting his first job with the charity as a community manager.

Together with the backing we receive from the football club, we can inspire positive change both within the perimeters of the football field and outside it.

Matt Everett, Oxford United in the Community CEO.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.