By Sandrine Wyrich (@SunnyWyrich_)
A groundbreaking study undertaken by UEFA and the Scottish FA has praised the value of the Ayr United Football Academy (AUFA) to its local community and the promotion of women’s football.
The Social Return on Investment (SROI) report shows that AUFA contributes almost €10 million to the South Ayrshire region and evidenced over €6 million in healthcare savings due to football.
Although the registered charity puts an emphasis on football performance, AUFA also prides itself on a wider impact.
Alongside various development sides, it oversees the Ayr United Women’s squad who currently compete in the Scottish Women’s Championship South. The Academy has a strong impact on promoting the women’s game as former United goalkeeper Abbie Little describes:
“The pathway they have is really nice to see. The really young girls, their training is so good for their age. When I was 9 (at the Aberdeen Football Academy), we were training like once a week on this very muddy pitch just because it was free for us to use. They’ve got three nights a week training on an astro turf.
“As senior players, we would go down now and again to just give them something to look up to, but the Academy encourages the girls. If I was younger, it would have been very effective in wanting me to pursue football further than just a school-time hobby.”
Especially since the Ayr United women’s team has no affiliation with the popular men’s team, the support provided by AUFA is of high value to the women’s side.
SROI places a monetary value on football programmes, covering a spectrum of social, health and economic outcomes. AUFA was selected to participate in the pilot project and scintillated to the delight of David White, Head of the Academy:
“Since AUFA was founded in 2005 we have worked with our partners and volunteers to do all we can to make a positive contribution to our local community in South Ayrshire. The SROI model allowed us to quantify the substantial health, social and economic benefits which the collective effort is delivering.
“AUFA programmes have €17 social return for every €1 spent – a return of €9.6 million from programme costs of €574,000. It’s not really about the numbers however. It’s about the positive benefits for people which sit behind the numbers.”
The contributions made by AUFA go way beyond the football pitch, impacting key areas such as health and equal participation. The academy’s value is emphasised by MSP Jeane Freeman, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport:
“AUFA is a forward-thinking organisation delivering sport to the local community and encouraging participation in sport amongst people of all ages and abilities.
“The report demonstrates that the many programmes delivered by the club are helping people stay active, improve their physical and mental health and helping to address a number of societal issues ranging from loneliness and isolation to mental health and dementia.”
The report highlights the contribution of football on and off the pitch. Organisations like AUFA have become more influential than ever during this difficult time facing Covid-19, using the power of football to assist individuals and groups.