2021/22 - A Season of Community
At the end of a season which has been marked by significant challenges at Derby County Football Club, one thing is for certain – that the unity, support and resilience of Derby County fans has never been stronger.
As the football club’s community arm, we have never been prouder to represent our club within our communities. From coming together to support our Sensory Room to funding over 1,500 tickets through the Rams Family Fund, the connection between our organisation and supporters has been historic.
Quite often the focus of a football club is, understandably so, what happens on the pitch at 3pm on a Saturday. What this season has shown, is that what happens on that pitch, and those who represent the club, have the ability to unite, inspire and propel positivity across our entire community.
With the well-documented financial challenges at Derby County this season, the initial need for fan support came in the form of our Sensory Room. The facility allows families with children living with disabilities, predominantly autism, to experience a matchday at Pride Park Stadium – something many would find impossible without the atmosphere created by the room.
The cost of running the room has always been covered by the Community Trust so that there is no barrier for participants to get the chance to use the facility. This has always been fundamental to the facility being in place, which was kickstarted by a donation of the equipment from the Shaun Barker Foundation.
These means that around £10,000 is required each year to keep the facility free at the point of use. With the help of Rams fans this season, the inaugural 1884 Wall, which features the names of 1,000 supporters who donated to the cause, we raised over £11,000, securing the availability of the room for a full season, as well as ensuring its upkeep so it can be used beyond matchdays too.
This outpouring of generosity was not unexpected from a group of fans renowned for high attendances and support of their team. What was important to us was that support translated directly to community projects, and wasn’t reserved for the 11 players on the pitch.
That generosity became abundantly clear on the 7th February. After being approached by several fans and groups following the success of the fundraiser to create a flag for the Birmingham City fixture on 30th January, we launched the Rams Family Fund.
Put in place to allow fans to make a donation, which in turn would allow other families to attend games, we have been able to distribute a total of 1,505 tickets across the Rams’ final eight games of the season.
Tickets have been distributed to families who haven’t been able to attend games before and various community groups, including the Food 4 Thought Alliance, Derby Refugee Advice Centre and local dementia groups.
This has all been made possible because of the efforts and generosity of Derby fans. Just two hours after launching the fund, we’d received £5,000 in donations. The initial idea was to raise just £1,000 – enough for 50 tickets for the Peterborough United fixture.
In less than 24 hours the total stood at an unbelievable £15,000 – roughly enough 750 tickets! It was decided that 500 tickets should be purchased for the Peterborough game, which the fund was initially put in place for, with the aim to then purchase 100 additional tickets for each remaining home weekend fixture.
The donations crept up and up, and including two anonymous £5,000 donations, the final figure donated stands at £33,000. That’s allowed 1,500 tickets and once in a lifetime opportunities to be provided to some very special Rams families.
One of those families was Tilly Hunt’s, a brave 13-year-old overcoming a brain tumour and its accompanying treatment. Wanting to recognise her inspirational journey, captain Tom Lawrence paid a visit to her and her family to treat them to a special matchday experience courtesy of the Family Fund.
They attended the Preston North End game as special guests in hospitality and met Tilly’s favourite player, Curtis Davies, pitchside, along with teammate Jason Knight. We also recognised other children who had gone above and beyond – Clarissa, an 8 year old Rams fan who collected hundreds of Easter eggs for children in her local area, and Oscar, 8, and Leah, 11, who donated their pocket money after receiving tickets themselves through the fund.
This season of community spirit was rounded off with the Derby County Community Trust being awards Community Club of the Season for the Midlands at the annual EFL Community Awards. It’s fair to say that without the support of fans throughout the season, what has been achieved would simply not have been possible, and the trophy stands for what was achieved when against the odds.
There is a want to continue this community way of working, and as we all look forward to a new chapter in Derby County’s history, we’ll be there to ensure we reach right into the hearts of our communities, and keep up the incredible momentum of what proved to be a season of community triumph.