Monday the 13th of November brought around the highly anticipated 20th EFDN Making Football Matter Conference.

Upon learning that The St. Johnstone Community Trust made the longlist for the European Football for Development Network (EFDN) ‘More Than Football’ award in June and then the shortlist in September, all eyes at the Trust were on preparing for the event in Athens!

The EFDN unites European football and aims to gather professional football organisations together to utilise the power of football as a tool for social development. The More Than Football award presents an opportunity to showcase and honour the best community and social responsibility projects currently being implemented by Clubs, Leagues, or FA throughout Europe.

Saints in the Community CEO, Francis Smith, and Projects & Delivery Officer, Josh Henderson, set off for Athens early on Monday morning with a full day learning and networking ahead. They proudly represented the Community Trust and St. Johnstone Football Club throughout the 3 days, attending a number of seminars from international clubs including AEK Athens, IFK Goteborg, Wolves Foundation, Eduwinkel Sphero Sports, EFL & SPFL Trusts, Manchester City in the Community, Premier League, and The River Plate Foundation.

Tuesday started early for Fran and Josh in preparation for the 15-minute project presentations being held later that day. As part of our shortlisting for the award, we showcased the impact of the Trust's Saints Academy INclusion Through Sport project to around 200 delegates from more than 80 member Clubs. Presentations were delivered by the other three finalists too: Legia Warsaw’s ‘ReadytoHelp Refugees from Ukraine’, FC Midtjylland’s ‘The together on the Field project’ & KRC Genk’s ‘Young Dementia Café’.

Tuesday afternoon provided Fran and Josh the opportunity to participate in a series of breakout rooms with the aim of being able to collaborate within groups to gain practical knowledge and allow participants to engage in a discussion surrounding the projects. Fran visited IFK Goteborg’s ‘A Club for Everyone or Just a Few’ breakout room which focused on educating and providing attendees with the chance to challenge the stereotypes and structures within elite football. This was followed by the EFDN’s ‘Building the #MoreThanFootball action weeks’ seminar which focused on the More Than Football 2024 campaign and how member clubs can contribute to next year’s campaign.

Josh attended the Eduwinkel ‘STEAM Education’ seminar which provided an opportunity to work with Sphero Robots, explaining how these educational materials can be linked into the football environment and how clubs can use the impact of football to help teach children digital skills within the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths topics. Following this, Josh attended the Wolves Foundation ‘Growth & Development of Health & Wellbeing’ seminar which focused on how they have managed to significantly increase their health and wellbeing department, showcasing how they have used insight from local partners to create programmes which help to address local needs.

On Tuesday evening, Fran and Josh attended a tour of the Acropolis Museum prior to the Awards Dinner which was being held within the museum! The award dinner provided an opportunity for all Trust’s and their representatives to get together for a meal prior to the announcement of the winner of the 2023 More Than Football award, voted for by attending members! We would like to extend our warmest congratulations to Fundacja Legii on winning the 2023 More Than Football award for their Ready To Help Refugees project, winning a mini-pitch for their community.

Thank you for the support our staff have received while preparing for the conference presentation. Throughout the trip, we valued the opportunity to learn, share best practice and make new connections with a range of Clubs and Trusts, and we look forward to attending the next conference in April 2024.