When Clarbeston Road AFC in Pembrokeshire needed help fitting out their new clubhouse, they decided to apply for the South West Wales Connected 2022 Community Changemakers Fund. They were awarded £1000, which went towards new flooring for the portacabin.
It was an important step forward for the club, whose previous clubhouse had been a temporary building that was in a poor state of repair. As a club very much at the heart of its local community, it was important for Clarbeston Road AFC to have a building to use as a social space, a tuck shop and a shelter on rainy days.
The club’s origins go all the way back to the 1960s. Since 2016 it has been a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIC) directed by a group of 12 elected trustees with a range of backgrounds, experience and expertise. Everyone involved in running the club is a volunteer.
Chairman Steve Brown has been involved in the club for around 24 years.
“My initial involvement all those years ago was when my then six-year-old son attended a mini football fun session the club had started,” he says. “I offered to help out the coach who had a large group very young children to manage all by himself. From that first involvement I soon became a club coach moving through all the age groups with my son over the years and eventually finishing up coaching the senior first team.
“I also played senior football for the club for a few years – having previously retired from playing and hanging up my boots.”
He became a committee member many years ago and for some time was the Club Coaching Coordinator. He has been Club Chairman since 2013.
“I have always enjoyed football and it’s great to be able combine this hobby with being able to support my local community as a volunteer and to apply my career experiences in helping to manage and develop the club,” he says. “I get great satisfaction in seeing how our club is developing to benefit the local community and how it helps our young people develop their social skills and confidence alongside keeping fit and healthy and enjoying their football.”
In March 2020 the club was gifted a portacabin by a GP Practice at Cardigan Health Centre as a replacement for the deteriorating temporary club house. The club transferred it to their site and, after a delay due to the pandemic lock downs and restrictions on its activities, they have refurbished it as a club room with a separate small changing room.
“We were looking for funding to help replace the floor covering that was in very poor condition and came across the Changemakers Funding scheme through our attendance at the annual Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services Funding Fair,” says Steve.
“Given the funding criteria, our role in the community and the history of the village of Clarbeston Road growing up around a key junction on the railway, we saw the fund as an ideal fit for us.”
It was indeed an ideal fit. Now in its third year, the Community Changemakers Fund supports initiatives aimed at improve the places in the South West Wales rail network. Applications are open to any group of local residents, community organisation, charity, community interest company or micro-SME that is based within 10km/6miles of a train station on the network, which covers the counties of Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.
In the case of Clarbeston Road AFC’s, the award of £1000 made reflooring the clubhouse achievable.
“The total cost was over £2000 and the funding helped make this work affordable,” says Steve. “The balance was raised from another small grant and from club fundraising events.”
The portacabin has been in use since completion of the work in mid-July 2022 and now provides a much-needed space for social contact between members and visitors.
“This is so important in our rural community,” says Steve. “On match days we operate a tuck shop and serve hot and cold drinks from the building along with running our football boot re-use initiative and selling club items and tickets for our community events. The building also provides some shelter from inclement weather on match days for spectators and players’ families.
“We now hold our trustees and other ad hoc meetings in the club room, part of which is set up for meetings of up to 12 persons. We have the flexibility to vary the seating format to accommodate small desk-based training events.
“We are using the other room, as intended, as a dry changing area for mini football and to help us address challenges in providing changing arrangements for mixed gender teams. This has improved the facilities we have been able to provide for recent events, such as girls’, women’s and disability festivals.”
The facility has also recently been used for community events such as a Jubilee party and the village sports day – and there is now further potential for use of the club’s facilities by other community groups.
“We were delighted to receive an award from the Changemakers Fund,” says Steve. “Without the award, we would have needed to divert funding from other activities and developments and limit the services we could provide to our members and the local community. The application and reporting requirements for the funding have been straightforward and we have had very good support and encouragement from the Changemakers funding officers. We would recommend the fund to other community groups.”
The club is continuing to progress its staged plan for the development of its facilities. It has ambitious plans for new changing rooms and further pitch developments and hopes to obtain funding for these through the recently announced FAW Cymru Football Foundation. It will also continue to seek vital smaller pockets of funding for specific improvements ranging from new grounds maintenance equipment to CCTV and an improved PA system.
Here at South West Wales Connected, we’re delighted that our Community Changemakers Fund helped to fund some of the club’s important work. If, like Clarbeston Road AFC, you have an idea that would benefit your local community, you may be eligible for support from the Community Changemakers Fund. This year’s fund is now open for applications. Find out more here: https://www.southwestwales.co/changemakers/