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Published December 31, 2023

2023: Year in Review

2023 has been a successful year for the Ipswich Town Foundation, with our provision continuing to expand, further diversifying the support available to communities across Suffolk and surrounding areas.

Join us for a look back on some of the key moments of another special year.

January

The year started strongly for the Foundation, with the announcement of two new programmes.

The Foundation’s Health & Wellbeing provision expanded with the launch of Senior Blues, a session designed to combat social isolation in people over the age of 50, helping to improve the mental and physical health of older people in Suffolk. Since January, the initiative has gone from strength to strength, with a real sense of community developing amongst the group. Participants have been joined across the year by a number of current and former players, including trustees Matt Holland and Conor Chaplin, as well as the likes of Simon Milton, George Burley, and Janoi Donacien.

During EFL Week of Action, the Foundation also publicly launched its Refugee Football initiative. Delivered in partnership with Suffolk Refugee Support, the initiative provides free, weekly football sessions for refugees and asylum seekers, with participants from a range of countries including Ukraine, Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan among many. The session has been well supported by Foundation and Club staff, with Director of Foundation Dan Palfrey, Club CEO Mark Ashton, and first team players Sam Morsy, Harry Clarke and Kyle Edwards all attending since the programme’s launch.

January also saw the beginning of a flourishing partnership between the Foundation and Fairview Farm, an adult disability day group. The Foundation has been providing a weekly group session that allows young adults with disabilities to socialise, as well as to experience a range of sports in a welcoming environment.

It was also announced in January that Town defender George Edmundson would become the Foundation’s Disability Ambassador. The move followed George’s ongoing support of the Adult Disability group, having already donated kit to the participants earlier in the 22/23 season. George has continued to support the sessions in his official capacity, whilst often attending events and sessions unannounced, continuing his strong relationship with the group.

The Foundation’s Post 16 Football & Education students were joined by Fabio Wardley, who spoke with them as part of Week of Action about the importance of hard work, respect, and commitment. Conor Chaplin also paid a visit to the second Senior Blues session of the month, whilst Vaclav Hladky was joined by Kane Vincent-Young at our Portman Road Player Development Centre.

 

February

February saw the Foundation host its first Meet the Players event, with Conor Chaplin, Leif Davis and Wes Burns joined by Matt Holland in the Sir Bobby Robson Suite at Portman Road. The evening saw over 200 Town supporters have their chance to meet, take photos and get autographs from Town’s first team stars, whilst also having the opportunity to ask the trio questions. The event, organised by the Official ITFC Supporters Club, saw over £1,900 raised for the Foundation, with all profits going towards the growth of the Foundation’s Health & Wellbeing provision.

February also saw the Foundation purchase a number of new inflatables, a move designed to enhance the experience for fans in the matchday FanZone at Portman Road and at events across the region. The purchase of these inflatables was made possible by funding provided to the Foundation by Town fan Steve Kirby through Vodafone’s VeryMe rewards.

February was a month packed with player appearances, with a number of Men’s and Women’s first team players in attendance at sessions across the region. January arrival Harry Clarke took part in a Suffolk MIND session at Cliff Lane Primary School, his first community appearance since re-joining the Club. Lee Evans and Cameron Burgess attended Soccer Schools at Portman Road and Stowupland High School respectively, with Wes Burns, Christian Walton, Lucy O’Brien and Summer Hughes attending camps across the region during February half-term. Kayden Jackson attended a Multi-Sport session at Copleston Sports Centre, Lee Evans spoke at Active Suffolk’s PE & School Sport Conference at The Hold in Ipswich, whilst Sone Aluko and Nathan Broadhead took part in a Boys Elite Player Development Centre session at Portman Road.

March

March started strongly, with the Academy launching Futures Group, a new initiative sitting above the Foundation’s Advanced Training Centre in the Boys Development Pathway. The programme provides support to players who have been identified within the Foundation’s setup, allowing for smoother transition into the Club’s Academy.

March also saw the announcement of support from Vertas Group, one of Great Britain’s largest integrated facilities management companies. The Foundation announced that The Vertas Group, which consists of Vertas, Concertus Design & Property Consulants and Opus People Solutions, had sponsored its disability provision on an initial deal until the end of the 2023/24 season. The funding has and will continue to enable the Foundation to develop and grow its disability provision for adults and children in the local community.

With this in mind, March saw the Foundation announce that it would now be offering Frame Football sessions to children who utilise walking aids to reap the mental and physical benefits of playing football. Since its launch, the session has relocated from Copleston Sports Centre to Suffolk One, with support shown by a number of first team players including Disability Ambassador George Edmundson, Conor Chaplin and Wes Burns.

The player visits continued in March, kicked off by Freddie Ladapo at the Foundation’s Elite Player Development Centre in Eye. Janoi Donacien also paid a visit to a Wildcats session at Ipswich Academy, whilst Academy players Finn Steele and Alex Graham returned to their old school, visiting the Foundation’s Player Development Centre at East Bergholt High School.

April

April was a key month in the year, with the future of the Foundation outlined in its new ‘Presence with Purpose’ five-year strategy.

The new strategy sees the Foundation work towards building an empowered, inspired and inclusive community to be proud of, using the presence, power and reach of Ipswich Town Football Club to inspire and engage individuals both on and off the football pitch. The final year of the Foundation’s strategy, 2028, coincides with the Club’s 150th anniversary. To celebrate this occasion, the Foundation aims to have reached 150,000 engagements with unique participants since the relaunch of the Foundation in 2019.

Arguably the biggest day of the Foundation’s year also took place in April, with Town’s 6-0 win over Charlton Athletic serving as the Club’s dedicated Foundation Fixture, raising awareness of the work being delivered across communities in Suffolk and surrounding areas whilst also providing a fundraising opportunity to allow the Foundation to continue to grow. The day raised over £32,000 for the Foundation, with the money going back into the community to help those in need. Also donated as part of the day was a new Toyota Proace van, kindly donated by Steven Eagell Toyota. Since it’s donation, the van has proved invaluable to the Foundation, allowing for improved presence at events across the year.

Again, Town’s players showed their commitment to the community by showing up in numbers to sessions across April. Conor Chaplin visited Frame Football, whilst Leif Davis, Cameron Burgess, Dom Ball and Christian Walton visiting Holiday Camps at Castle Hill Primary and Chantry Academy respectively. George Hirst made his first Foundation appearance at a Soccer School at Portman Road, with George Edmundson supporting an MNDA fundraiser at Cliff Lane Primary School.

The Academy continued their support for the Foundation’s work, with a number of players attending sessions across the region. Ryan Carr, Daniel O’Connor and Charlie Woods visited a Boys Development Camp at Portman Road, Gerrard Buabo, Danny Cullum, Ben Haddoch and Jack Manly attended Frame Football at Suffolk One, with Ash Boatswain and Dan Cousens at the Foundation’s Tiptree EPDC, both having attended sessions there before progressing into the Academy.

 

May

May started off positively, with Needham Market Advanced Training Centre participant Tommy progressing through the Foundation’s player pathway into the Club’s Academy. Tommy had been identified playing for his local Club, whilst also being recommended by Foundation staff during his time in the pathway.

Another positive story in May, with the Foundation’s Frame Footballers enjoying a successful afternoon at St George’s Park, winning the Frame Football National Shield. Accompanied by coaches Eoin McNamee and Nicola Allum, the team was victorious in the 5-8 category, winning all four of their games, scoring 16 goals and conceding 0 in the process.

Also in May, the Foundation hosted a Show Racism the Red Card event at Portman Road, with students from Claydon Primary School invited as part of the Foundation’s Premier League Primary Stars provision. As part of the event, Town star Kayden Jackson joined Head of Curriculum Mike Phillips and Paul Samuels, Vice President of Atlantic Records and co-founder of Love Music Hate Racism, to discuss experiences of racism in different settings and what the students can do to call it out.

The Foundation announced a key partnership in May, with Suffolk New College partnering with the Foundation to deliver education to the Foundation’s Post 16 Football & Education students. In a key improvement to the Foundation’s programme, the programme lays the foundations for students to progress in higher education, whilst enjoying the benefits of playing football, representing Ipswich Town in fixtures against other CCOs, likeminded programmes, and professional clubs.

At the end of May, Nacton C of E Primary became the first school to take part in the Foundation’s School Sponsorship initiative, with students taking on the Foundation’s inflatable dartboard to raise funds for the Foundation and their school. Joined by Town midfielder Lee Evans, students enjoyed a successful morning in the sun, raising over £1,500 to be split evenly between the school and the Foundation.

June

June saw the return of the Foundation and Futurestars Charity Tour of Suffolk Cycle Ride, with participants making the 150-mile journey from Portman Road, through Suffolk and Norfolk on day 1 and back down the Suffolk coast to Portman Road on day 2. Former Town players Matt Holland, Simon Milton and Luke Varney, along with former Newmarket Town footballer and double amputee Shaun Whiter, were amongst those taking part, with the event raising over £19,000 to be split between both charities to allow the continuation of work across Suffolk and surrounding areas and in Ghana and Togo respectively.

June also saw the launch of another new Foundation initiative: our LGBTQ+ Football sessions. Providing a safe and inclusive environment for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community as well as allies, the sessions run weekly at Portman Road and are well supported by Club and Foundation staff, with numbers growing each week.

Also in June, Town player Kyle Edwards, currently on loan at Oxford United, donated kit to the Foundation’s Refugee Football participants. Following his initial attendance at the session in May, Kyle collected kit from his own collection and from his teammates, before handing it over to Foundation staff to distribute to participants at the session at Goals in Ipswich.

July

July saw the Foundation announce the launch of another new session, with Powerchair Football becoming the latest branch of a flourishing disability provision. With the first session taking place in August, the initiative is designed to provide a safe and inclusive space for people of all ages who require the use of a powerchair for mobility to engage in football. The sessions run from 11 to 12 every other Sunday at Suffolk One, with first team players including George Edmundson, Wes Burns, and Sam Morsy all showing their support since the programme’s launch.

The Foundation also announced an expansion to its thriving Golden Days Café initiative, with a new Café launching in Bury in September 2023. Hosted at Bury Town F.C., the new Café adds to the existing session at Portman Road, a session which has been running since June 2022. The Golden Days Cafés provide a safe space to support those living with dementia, their carers, and those bereaved.

August

In early August, the Foundation was announced as the exclusive charity partner of The Greyhound pub in Ipswich for the 2023/24 season. This announcement followed on from the pub’s support of last season’s Foundation Fixture, which saw donations made through pint and burger sales on the day. The Greyhound chose the Foundation as it fits their ethos of helping and supporting the community, with a particular focus on mental health awareness.

August also saw Medequip and its wheelchair service, Ross Care donate nine wheelchairs to the Foundation for supporters to use on matchdays. The wheelchairs allow for improved accessibility of the experience of visiting Portman Road, adding to prior improvements including the return of sensory packs and the addition of wheelchair accessible benched in the matchday FanZone.

August saw the return of player appearances following a break for pre-season, with a number of players visiting Foundation sessions across the region. Cameron Burgess visited an event in Kesgrave, with Nathan Broadhead, Leif Davis, and Eloise King all visiting participants of the Foundation Football Festival at Portman Road. Cameron Humphreys, Kyle Edwards, Cieran Slicker, Omari Hutchinson, George Edmundson, Christian Walton, Wes Burns, Nick Hayes, Kayden Jackson, Jack Taylor, Freddie Ladapo, Maria Boswell and Sophie Peskett were all in attendance at different sessions across Suffolk and surrounding areas.

LT Contactors were announced as the sponsors of the Foundation’s Walking Football programme for the 2023/24. The Tunstall-based company provide a complete building service to clients across East Anglia, with the LT Contractors logo adorning the front of the Walking Football team’s home kit.

Blues Fest and the Portman Picnic also took place at the end of August, offering supporters unlimited access to the Foundation’s inflatable activities, as well as food, drink and live music from local musician Dermot Gillespie-Gardiner.

September

September saw a landmark moment for the Foundation, with Barrington Hibbert Associates announced as the Principal Partner of the Foundation. The partnership sees the Executive Search firm support the Foundation’s ongoing work to build an empowered, inspired and inclusive community to be proud of. Barrington Hibbert Associates have a commitment to create a nationwide social impact at its core, aligning closely with the Foundation’s mission to engage with 150,000 unique participants by the Club’s 150th anniversary in 2028.

September also saw Cotswold Gas Solutions announced as the sponsor of the Post 16 Football & Education programme for the 2023/24 season. The sponsorship sees the Cotswold Gas Solutions logo featured on the front of the Post 16 kits as they compete in league and cup fixtures.

The Foundation were also granted Ofsted registration in September, a move which strengthened the Schools provision ahead of the new academic year. The process indicates the Foundation’s commitment to ensuring our operating and safeguarding standards meet those required by Ofsted, in turn giving students and school families the best quality and value for money, as well as allowing the Foundation to expand its offering into Breakfast and After School/Wrap Around sessions.

Three more Foundation participants signed for the Club’s Academy in September. Ashton joined the Club’s U13s, with Taeshawn and Zack joining the U11s from the Foundation’s Dagenham, Portman Road and Eye EPDC centres respectively.

Player visits continued through the month, with Janoi Donacien, Harry Clarke, Luke Woolfenden, Vaclav Hladky, Sam Morsy, George Hirst, and Conor Chaplin all in attendance at a range of sessions across September.

October

October was a month packed full of exciting events, with the Foundation hosting From Winning Teams to Broken Dreamswith Dominic Ball, as well as a charity Golf Day at Hintlesham Golf Club in partnership with Futurestars Charity.

From Winning Teams to Broken Dreams, organised in association with the Official ITFC Supporters Club, saw Town midfielder Dominic Ball joined by his editor Chris Green and representatives from Sarcoma UK, discussing his book of the same name. The panel, hosted by Tim Edwards of the Ipswich Town Heritage Society, took part in a discussion before the audience had an opportunity to ask questions on the book, Dom’s career, his time at Ipswich, as well as more generally on the importance of raising awareness of Sarcoma. All funds raised have been split between the Foundation and Sarcoma UK.

The Foundation and Futurestars Golf Day saw current and former players come together with Club and Foundation staff, local businesses and sponsors to take part in an 18-hole Stableford Competition. Cameron Humphreys and Harry Clarke joined Matt Holland, Simon Milton, Russell Osman, Luke Chambers, George Burley, Geraint Williams, Paul Goddard, Ian Marshall, Mick Lambert, and Wayne Brown as 18 teams competed with 9 representing the Foundation and 9 representing Futurestars. The day was a success, with the Foundation’s teams running out victorious.

October also saw Ellisons Solicitors renew their sponsorship of the Foundation’s Golden Days Cafés at Portman Road and Bury Town F.C., an extension of a partnership that dates back to the programme’s launch in June 2022. Part of Ellisons’ ethos is to engage with and support the local community, with this partnership further evidence of this.

George Edmundson paid his first visit to the Foundation’s Adult Disability session in the 23/24 season in October, strengthening his relationship with the participants of the group that has flourished since he arrived at the Club. George spent time catching up with the participants, before joining in with training and a small sided game.

Player attendances at Foundation sessions continued to take place in October, with Nathan Broadhead, Elkan Baggott, Cameron Humphreys, Axel Tuanzebe, Marcus Harness and Massimo Luongo all engaging with the community across the month.

November

November saw the EFL’s Week of Action return, with the Foundation highlighting the work undertaken in the community alongside the other 71 EFL Clubs. Wes Burns attended Adult Disability and Walking Football sessions, with Conor Chaplin meeting participants of the LGBTQ+ Football session as part of the week.

Also in November was a landmark night for the Foundation, as the inaugural Foundation Fundraising Dinner took place at Portman Road. Ipswich Town royalty gathered together with staff, sponsors, local businesses, participants and supporters to celebrate the impact of the Foundation in communities across Suffolk and the surrounding areas. Manager Kieran McKenna, CEO Mark Ashton and Director Berke Bakay were all in attendance, joined by trustees Conor Chaplin and Natasha Thomas, Disability Ambassador George Edmundson, and Michael Barrington-Hibbert of Principal Partner Barrington Hibbert Associates. The evening saw Matt Holland in conversation with Town hero David Johnson, as well as participants Helen Seager, Lyndsey, Ashleigh and Timmy Hetherington share their experiences of attending Foundation sessions. The event was a huge success, with over £30,000 raised to support the continued growth and expansion of the Foundation’s already diverse provision.

November also saw the Foundation recognised at the Active Suffolk Awards at Trinity Park. The Foundation’s Health & Wellbeing department was awarded Active Community of the Year, whilst the Frame Football team were runners-up in the Team of the Year category for their achievements at St George’s Park in May. Foundation Community Apprentice Lauren Revill and Volunteer Eoin McNamee were both runners-up in the Activity Champion of the Year category.

Support from players continued in November, with Men’s and Women’s players engaging with the community across the region. Luke Woolfenden, Harry Clarke, and Cameron Humphreys all took part in a Player Q&A event to raise money for the Foundation, with Christian Walton, Dominic Ball, Cameron Humphreys, Marcus Harness, George Edmundson, Sone Aluko, Kayden Jackson and Vaclav Hladky all at sessions across October. Town Women stars Natasha Thomas, Maria Boswell, Evie Williams, Summer Hughes, and Blue Wilson also paid a visit to participants of our Girls Emerging Talent Centre at Playford Road.

December

The final month of 2023 saw the Foundation take a huge step in its development, completing a move to a new office space within Grafton House. Remaining within a stone’s throw of Portman Road, the new space allows the Foundation to remain connected to the Club, whilst offering staff a much-improved working environment that will allow for the continued growth and improvement of the Foundation’s provision. The Foundation would like to place on record its thanks to its Principle Partner Barrington Hibbert Associates, Evolve Business Solutions, Hudson Signs and Layrd Design for making the move possible.

December also saw the launch of the DIVERT programme, a new initiative acting on an increased need for targeted and bespoke interventions in Ipswich, actively engaging with and raising aspirations of young people aged 13-17 years old that are on the periphery of, or entrenched in, serious youth violence. Funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, the programme sees the Foundation work in partnership with Suffolk Constabulary to deliver workshops on a range of sessions. Participants were joined by Fabio Wardley in December, who spoke with them on his experiences as a young man in Ipswich, and how he managed to break out of trouble into professional boxing.

Wear Blue Day was one of the highlights of the month, with primary schools across Suffolk coming together to turn the county blue ahead of Town’s East Anglian Derby clash with Norwich City at Portman Road. Schools across the county were visited by mascots Bluey and Crazee, whilst CEO Mark Ashton delivered an assembly to students at Gusford Primary in Ipswich. The Foundation would like to place on record its sincerest thanks to the participating schools, with all funds raised on the day split evenly between the Foundation and each participating school.

As in 2022, staff from the Foundation and the Football Club, including Town midfielder Dominic Ball, volunteered at FIND (Families in Need) ahead of the Christmas period. Staff, as well as participants of the Foundation’s DIVERT programme, helped to pack 501 food parcels across three evenings at the foodbank.

Players continued to support the Foundation to the end of the year, with a special evening at Portman Road one of the highlights of a fantastic year of engagements across the region. Town ‘keeper Christian Walton and defender Janoi Donacien delivered kit, paid for by Town’s first team squad, to the Foundation’s Youth Disability participants ahead of their first ever fixtures the following weekend. Also in December, Freddie Ladapo paid a visit to our Girls EPDC session at Whitton Sports Centre, Elkan Baggott and Cieran Slicker attended our Portman Road Soccer School, and Sone Aluko meeting participants at our Holiday Camp at St Mary’s Primary in Woodbridge.

As 2023 draws to a close, Ipswich Town Foundation would like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout the year. Without that support, we simply would not be able to deliver the provision we offer. Happy New Year, and see you in 2024.



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