Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, was present this week at a Parliamentary reception arranged to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the West Ham United Foundation, the charitable arm of the Premier League football club.
Mr Fitzpatrick has supported West Ham since coming to London in 1973 and is one of the most prominent Hammers fans in the House of Commons. He is a strong supporter of the work that the West Ham United Foundation does throughout East London, including with charities, schools and community groups in Poplar.
Among the attendees was Joan Hart, Head Teacher of Our Lady & St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, which hosts regular summer school events arranged by the West Ham United Foundation for local children in the Poplar area.
Speaking after the event, Jim Fitzpatrick said:
“One of the reasons I’ve always been proud to be a West Ham fan is that it remains a club very much rooted in its local community, and run by two chairmen who grew up in East London.
“The West Ham United Foundation is the way the club gives something back to that local community, and ensures that the people of East London, including my constituents in Poplar, can share in the benefits of having a Premier League football club on their doorstep.
“I was very glad to give my support to this event, and I look forward to the Foundation continuing its brilliant work for decades to come.”
Among the attendees at the event, held on Monday 2nd November, were the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon John Whittingdale, who expressed his support for the Foundation and wished it well for the expansion of its work that will accompany West Ham’s move to the club’s new Stadium in Stratford next year.
Also present were several other MPs, local councillors, the Premier League's Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, West Ham’s Joint-Chairman David Gold, as well as representatives of dozens of bodies who have received support from the Foundation over recent years.
The assembled gathering heard from the Chief Executive of the Foundation, Joe Lyons, who introduced them to four young people from the East London and Essex area whose lives have been transformed as a result of the Foundation's work.
"Over the next decade", Lyons said, "we will work tirelessly to create more of these stories.
"Today, we are outlining our new 10 year strategy which redefines our vision. We want to be a truly inclusive organisation offering a range of programmes that provide positive experiences to all."
He set out the Foundation's priorities and goals for the next decade, including expanding its work across all of East London and Essex, establishing international programmes, creating pathways to education and work for young people in the region, and using sport as a motivator for social change.
In the past 25 years, West Ham’s Foundation has provided support and opportunities to 1.5 million young people and adults in local communities in the region, but it plans to reach a further 1 million people in the next 10 years alone.
West Ham Vice-Chairman Karren Brady, who has masterminded the expansion of the Foundation's work since arriving at the Club in 2010, explained to the reception why the West Ham board believe it is so important to support the Club's local communities.
"When my two Chairmen, David Sullivan and David Gold, and I began our work at West Ham", she said, "one of our first priorities was to expand the work the Club had been doing to create better futures for local people.
"My Chairmen both originated from the area and...with their passion for giving something back to their local community and my determination to use sport to better the lives of its people, it quickly became something that was incredibly important to all three of us.
"We made sure the Foundation became the hub to deliver the Club’s vision for outreach, benefitting the charities we feel most passionate about and most importantly giving brighter futures for the most deprived people in our community.
"We now have some remarkable stories to tell of the lives we’ve changed and an exciting, ambitious vision for the future, as we prepare to take up residence in our new home."
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore also hailed the achievements of the Foundation in his speech.
"In terms of West Ham", he said, "some of their schemes are leading the way among all clubs, including the work they do with schools: 35 different schools being touched by West Ham's Foundation; 3,000 young people in a year being influenced just by one club.
"The Kicks programme has been taken on by the West Ham Foundation probably better than any other Club; it is currently working in 24 sites within east London, with a huge impact in terms of reducing anti-social crime.
"That's the power of football. That's the power of the West Ham badge, that's the power of the Foundation. There a lots of other clubs doing the same, but I don't think there's any single club that does it to the depth and breadth, and with the real commitment that West Ham do it."
The event ended with MPs presenting the Foundation with a special birthday card signed by all those in attendance. The message inside read: "Congratulations on 25 years of life-changing community work and long may it continue in your new home."