This week marks 15-years since Roman Abramovich became the owner of Chelsea FC and while success on the pitch has made the headlines, there is plenty to celebrate off the field too.
Much has changed in the past decade and a half, with 15 trophies making it the most successful period in the club’s history and the Chelsea Foundation now established as one of the world’s leading football social responsibility programmes.
From day one the owner made it clear his vision for Chelsea was two-fold; something he reiterated in the matchday programme prior to our game with Bournemouth last season.
‘When I first came to Chelsea, I had two ambitions: to create world-class teams on the pitch; and to ensure the club plays a positive role in all its communities, using football as a vehicle to inspire and engage,’ he wrote.
Formed in 2010, the Foundation now employs more than 300 members of staff and runs over 500 projects each and every week, working with one million-plus people every year.
On top of the outstanding football development programmes, the Chelsea Foundation works on a broad range of initiatives focusing on employment, education, social deprivation, crime reduction, youth offending, disability sport and much more.
Through the International Department, the Foundation is also able to use football as a force for good around the world. To date it has worked in 45 countries, delivering workshops and training courses to 2,500 coaches and more than 20,000 participants.
Using sport to motivate, educate and inspire, the Foundation believes the power of football can be harnessed to support communities and individuals both at home and abroad.
A lot of important work has also been undertaken by the Foundation to combat discrimination of all kinds. The club has set up our own inclusion projects to ensure we are a proactive presence within the community on a daily basis. Chelsea's Building Bridges initiative was launched in 2010 to promote equality in our club, our stadium and throughout our communities and includes the now annual Game for Equality.
All of the Foundation’s work is championed at board level and by Mr Abramovich, none more so than the club’s ‘Say No To Antisemitism’ campaign which was launched and implemented last season and is fully backed by our owner.
He said: ‘It has always been important to me to create a club that is welcoming to everyone. We actively celebrate our cultural and religious diversity and, through the work of the Chelsea Foundation, deliver programmes to promote equality and tackle discrimination all over the world. However, we are all too often reminded there is more to be done.
‘The Holocaust was a crime without parallel in history. We must never forget such atrocities and must do our utmost to prevent them from ever happening again.’
Barriers continue to be broken down by the Foundation with highlights from the past year including the 10th anniversary of our ground-breaking Asian Star initiative and our inaugural Disability Showcase, when more than 800 disabled players, from a host of professional and amateur teams, strutted their stuff at Cobham and Stamford Bridge during a fun-filled weekend in May.
Education remains a priority for the Foundation with a broad and diverse range of programmes that engage with primary schools, secondary schools, further education colleges, the world of business and senior supporters, offering 1,400 sessions per year in 57 schools in London and Surrey.
We continue to work with schools throughout the south-east of England and in 2018 launched a new girls-only sixth-form football academy at Blenheim High School in Epsom, which allows girls aged 16 to 18 to benefit from the unique opportunity of having an academic-led education and being able to gain A-level qualifications alongside a full programme of professional football coaching.
In partnership with St Mary's University, we also offer a football-based academic programme, which offers students a bespoke programme in coaching and administration alongside practical work experience, creating a new generation of highly trained and qualified Foundation staff.
Our social inclusion work is operating in some of the most deprived areas in the country and is providing diversionary activities for thousands of young people.
The Chelsea Foundation Futsal Club runs three senior futsal teams, allowing players to earn academic and coaching qualifications while competing at a national level, as well as our junior sides reaching the national finals in the Under-10s, Under-13s and Under-15s age groups.
Our female engagement programmes include Regional Talent Centres (RTCs), Football Development Centres and the Premier League Girls grassroots engagement initiative.
That is on top of the regular Chelsea Soccer Schools for girls and boys of all abilities taking place across the South-East all year round, and Foundation coaches visiting schools to deliver PE lessons focused on physical and sporting development.
The Chelsea Foundation is an independent registered charity but we still support more than 250 separate charities each year through the donation of signed merchandise.
We also have a long-term exclusive partnership with Plan International to raise money and awareness of their work and we remain the only English club to have a charity logo on our European match kit. The Plan logo also features on the Chelsea FC Women’s shirts throughout the season.
The club and Foundation are also fully committed to our history and raise money for former players and employees through the Chelsea Past Players' Trust.
While the club has worked within the community since as far back as the early 1990s, the programme has come a long way in the past 15 years and while the Foundation's progression is testament to the work carried out on a daily basis by its dedicated staff, it would not have been achieved without the interest and drive in this area from the very top of the club.
Everyone at the Chelsea Foundation thanks Mr Abramovich for his continued and unwavering support.