Rochdale AFC Community Trust began operations in September 1987 as one of the country’s very first ‘Football in the Community’ initiatives.
Football in the Community was the brainwave of Micky Burns and the Professional Footballers Association, as they sought ways of supporting players into employability once their careers finished.
Projects were initially set up at Manchester City, Manchester United, Bolton Wanderers, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and Bury, followed six months later by Rochdale and five other clubs.
The Rochdale AFC Football in the Community programme officially launched on 14th September 1987 and saw Keith Hicks, take up his role three weeks later on October 5th.
Former footballer Hicks was forced to retire from the game after sustaining an injury during a match against Crewe Alexandra at Spotland, and returned to the club to take up the community role, one he did with distinction for the next 33 years before retiring.
The original aims and objectives set out for Rochdale AFC were to encourage more people (especially children) to play football, to encourage more people to become support Rochdale AFC by forging closer links between the club and the local community by using club facilities and using players to act as role models. There were always close links to the academy, as The Dale sought the next first team player from the school and grassroots club.
In the early 2000’s, Football in the Community started to change slightly, as the FA and County FA took responsibility for grassroots football development and the emergence of the ‘Elite Player Performance Pathway’ to recognise and recruit talented players. The emergence of modern marketing channels to attract new fans also led to a major rethink on the future direction of Football in the Community schemes.
In 2007, Rochdale AFC Football in the Community Scheme LTD was born, continuing much of the work in the same way but with a renewed focus on the wider responsibility of football clubs in the societies in which they operate.
Schools football coaching programmes and holiday clubs were supplemented by work in social inclusion, community cohesion, health and education.
Now acting as a registered charity with a board of trustees independent of the football club, the trust (known as Rochdale AFC in the Community and Rochdale AFC Community Sports Trust over this time) began to grow.
2020 saw the coronavirus pandemic halt the usual activities, although the trust adapted to support the most vulnerable. The long serving Keith Hicks decided to hang up his boots and whistle and the trust enters its next new era with a renewed mission based on the same principals that have benefitted many Rochdalians in the years gone by.