Blackburn Rovers Community Trust were awarded the EFL North West Checkatrade Community Club of the Year Award for 2018 in a high profile ceremony at the House of Commons on Monday.
The football club’s official charity were joined alongside the five other regional winners in London for the award ceremony in the iconic location’s Terrace Pavilion, hosted by TV and radio presenter Colin Murray.
Chief executive officer Gary Robinson collected the award on behalf of the Trust, and he was joined in Parliament by chair of trustees George Root, the football club’s chief executive Steve Waggott and Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s deputy chief executive David Dunwell.
Also in attendance on BRCT’s behalf was Paul Davies, who is a regular Social Inclusion Football League participant, which is a joint venture between the Trust and social care provide Creative Support.
The league is hosted at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre at Ewood Park and is designed to support people with needs in mental health, substance misuse, social isolation and homelessness.
Both Gary and Paul spoke on stage at the award ceremony, with the latter explaining how the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust and the Social Inclusion Football League has not only changed his life, but saved it too, due to Paul’s mental health issues.
The Trust’s chief executive officer, Gary Robinson, said: “I am so proud of everyone connected at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust for playing their part in helping us win the EFL’s North West Checkatrade Community Club of the Year Award.
“It was an honour to attend such a well-organised event at Westminster in order to be presented with the trophy on behalf of the whole team.
“We strive to be the best at everything we do, helping as many people as possible every day, so to be recognised as being one of the top club community organisations in the country is a very satisfying feeling.
“We have 48 projects and initiatives that all make a positive impact in so many different areas, including the Social Inclusion Football League in conjunction with Creative Support.
“The Social Inclusion Football League was set up for people who have concerns in their lives, mainly surrounding mental health issues.
“Everybody has their own story but I need to give a special mention to Paul Davies, who has bravely told his story to so many about his own issues and how he has changed his life around with the help of the Social Inclusion Football League.
“Paul spoke from the heart and we are all incredibly proud of him for what he has achieved.”
Prior to the award ceremony taking place, EFL chairman Ian Lenagan and Sports and civil society minister Tracey Crouch both addressed the audience to show their support for the six regional winners.
During her speech, Crouch identified Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s nomination as one that particularly interested her.
“Football clubs are more than just what happens on the pitch once or twice a week. Football clubs are communities that bring people together and forge lasting bonds,” said Crouch.
“All six winning projects are at the forefront of helping to tackle some of the biggest issues facing society today.
“Our six winners are also the epitome of the vision the government set out in Sporting Future, the sport strategy. This is what success looks like in sport, delivering on the five key outcomes of physical well-being, mental well-being, individual development, social and community development and economic development.
“As the recently appointed minister for loneliness, I was keen to hear more about Blackburn Rovers’ Social Inclusion Football League, which amongst other things is looking to tackle social isolation.”
Blackburn Rovers Community Trust were presented with their award first, before the other five regional winners, Charlton Athletic, Bristol City, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Derby County were handed their fully-deserved awards.
The six regional winners will now go up against each other to decide who will take the national crown, which will be decided at the EFL Awards ceremony at the London Hilton on Park Lane, taking place on Sunday 15th April.
It is the second time in three years that Blackburn Rovers’ official charity has secured the accolade, having also landed the equivalent regional award in 2015.