JAMIE VITTLES – City Community Trust
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye, Photography by Pip Andersen
It is a rare experience to meet someone who truly seems selfless. Many people try to portray humility but often fail to back it up. That wasn’t the case when I sat down for coffee at Artigiano recently with Sidmouth-born Jamie Vittles, Head of Community at the CITY Community Trust (the community charity of Exeter City Football Club).
Jamie’s first involvement with the club came as a sixteen-year-old apprentice (or scholar as clubs now refer to them). He played as an apprentice for two years, turning professional at the age of eighteen and playing for Exeter City for a season before briefly leaving the club and returning in the year 2000 to join the community arm of the club, called Football in the Community, at the time. At that stage of its existence, the organisation mainly provided primary-age football activities and courses as well as match-day activities and holiday clubs during school holidays. Essentially their aim was to do anything possible to get kids more active, enjoying sport and engaging with the club.
That was eighteen years ago and, since then, Jamie described having seen the organisation go from strength to strength, becoming a charity in 2007 and now employing over thirty permanent staff, seventy casual members of staff and with eighty employed on the charity’s National Citizen Service program. The breadth and depth of the projects they deliver have grown too, adapting to the market and providing a service that is not just football-related. They now deliver fifty different and very diverse programmes across Exeter and the Greater Exeter area, from sessions for tiny tots to school holiday clubs and mass-participation running events.
In fact, a study they carried out last year found that roughly fifty percent of the charity’s work is non-football related; focusing instead on a range of activities that promote health, well-being (physical and mental) and character development. At a basic level, the trust aims to engage with the local community and see it thrive – a noble cause indeed. They have worked hard over recent years to communicate that they are not just a ‘bolt-on’ to the football club, but an entity in their own right and with a different, but complementary, agenda which spans much wider than just football. This has resulted in their recent rebrand to CITY Community Trust; an expansive, broader brand which more accurately communicates their aim.
Youth engagement is key to the charity’s activities, meeting the needs of young people from the whole social mix of the area. The biggest programme that the CITY Community Trust delivers is the National Citizen Service (NCS) which sees fifteen to seventeen-year-olds from twenty-one schools and colleges give up four weeks of their summer holidays to invest in their skill set and confidence.
The four-week course includes a one-week adventure in the Brecon Beacons where participants learn life skills, partake in team building exercises and push themselves physically. The second week is then spent at Bicton College where participants learn about leadership, charity work and their local community. The third and fourth weeks are spent planning and delivering a social action project; a culmination of their learnings from the four-week course. An impactful program indeed.
Another programme of theirs that really moved me when Jamie told me about it was a Sporting Memories programme that is delivered to older generations and aims to combat isolation. Older men and women are invited into the club to talk about their sporting memories and engage with a growing friends’ network, where people can find friendship and belonging. A simple but wonderful initiative, I’m sure you will agree.
Jamie struck me as very comfortable in his own skin, quiet yet confident and a deep-thinker. He spoke openly about having to adapt his expectations and dreams in life, having stopped playing football professionally but still working within a football-related environment. Taking the organisation from a one-person initiative to a thriving team of over thirty people has been a rewarding but challenging experience for him.
Now in their own dedicated premises, delivering high-quality sporting programmes in the community, and having converted an original turnover of £50k per year to an impressive £1.4m per year, the key for them has been to form close partnerships with local stakeholders (notably Exeter College) and corporate sponsors, to ensure that their programmes are of the highest quality and can be delivered sustainably.
If their journey so far is anything to go by, the future is incredibly bright for this valuable, selfless and much-needed organisation. Having recently been awarded the Exeter Living award for Charity of the Year and also winning the contract to deliver NCS for 2018/19, their sustained growth looks likely to continue long into the future.
To find out more about the work of the City Community Trust, follow @ExeterCCT on Twitter or visit www.exetercitycommunitytrust.co.uk