When General Manager Martin Johnston first joined Peterhead Football Club back in 2016, he very quickly identified that the club had strong community links in and around the town but despite all the positive work being carried out by the club, something was evidently missing.
“Whilst there was a fantastic relationship with numerous organisations within the community, the emphasis was almost entirely on youth football. The volunteers and part-time staff were almost entirely of a certain age bracket. There were hardly any youngsters in and around the club on a match day other than ball boys.”
Whilst between jobs at Formartine United and Aberdeen Johnston travelled to numerous clubs throughout Scotland to get his Saturday “fix” of football and there was one common factor between all the clubs that he visited.
Johnston comments, “I spent approximately two months visiting Junior clubs from Tayside to Ayrshire at the start of 2016 and I was shocked at how many clubs were reliant on an aging band of volunteers.”
“It worried me as to how clubs are going to survive without the younger generation getting involved.”
“It got me thinking, we know what the youngsters have got to offer, but what have we got to offer them?”
Gradually and slowly Peterhead have built a young team of match day volunteers and part-time staff, ranging from ticket office staff to catering staff. We now have a healthy mix of young and old alike.”
“One thing that has really impressed me is the dedication and reliability of the younger staff. We have secured sponsorship for the various roles on a match day and this has resulted in everyone receiving the appropriate workwear for their various departments. Everyone feels now that they are part of the team!”
Youngsters can become a member of the Match Day Crew or Catering Staff from the age of fourteen, but whist they gave perhaps gained some basic skills the club felt that we could perhaps be giving something more to help these kids set out on their various career paths.
“A football club isn’t just about football, there are a wide range of jobs in the day to day running of the club. Everything from accounts and administration, to marketing and hospitality. It was on this basis that we approached Peterhead Academy with our idea about the Blue Toon Scholarship.” Initially, we are going to use Blue Toon Talk, our club online match day programme to get the project up and running, and then hopefully we can expand things from there.”
Starting from the new school term this year, 4th year pupil will be able to join the scheme and learn to provide editorial skills for anyone looking to pursue a career in journalism. They may not necessarily want to be a sports journalist, but hopefully they will learn interviewing techniques and other associated skills which should help them in their choice of career.”
In addition to this the club are allowing the pupils to be responsible for the content of 4 additional pages to the programme.
“Any contributions to the programme by Academy pupils will carry the mortar board logo (above) to identity their contribution. The Jim McInally interviews will be the first to be targeted. The additional four pages will consist of 2 pages of editorial and 2 pages of advertising. The pupils, working within certain guidelines will be solely responsible for the content. Everything from design, sales of advertising and artwork. Hopefully this will help them hone key skills and invaluable and valuable work experience. Pupils having committed a certain number of hours with then be eligible for a ‘Bronze Award’ at the end of their first year on the scheme. Senior pupils will be able to attain ‘Silver’ and ‘Gold Awards’ in the coming years before they go on to further their education.”
“It is hoped that the scheme can be extended to include videography and audio work in the future.
“We are delighted that Peterhead have embraced the concept and with the support of DYW North East, I am confident that the scheme will be a great success.
“It would be great to think that in the future, that when applying for positions, former pupils will be able to put down on their CV that the participated in the Blue Toon Scholarship!
“Some of the youngsters may wish to stay and help the club whilst studying at college or university, which would be a bonus for us or continue to provide editorial once they have established their own career, who knows!”
Johnston is clearly enthusiastic about the concept and it is clear that the programme epitomises everything that the club is trying to achieve off the field.
“Many of the future staff of Peterhead Football Club will at various stages in the coming years be educated at Peterhead Academy, we are simply trying to provide an opportunity for the youngsters to get involved at an early stage.
“This scheme will be the final stage of a pathway for youngsters to get involved with their local club. Most will move on to bigger and better things hopefully, but it may be the case that they will continue to support the club one way or another for many years to come.”
With the project up and running Johnston was quick to add that the final piece of the pathway jigsaw is also almost complete.
“Youngsters can initially get involved as ball boys and ball girls at an early stage and at 14 can work part-time in one of a number of match day roles. With the advent of the Blue Toon Scholarship that involvement can continue as part of their full-time education. However, have identified that this left a gap in the pathway, there was nothing from the age of 12 or 13 when most youngsters feel that they have outgrown the role of ball boy and ball girl.
“That’s why later on this season, in the next few weeks or so we will be introducing our team of “Young Ambassadors” who will be attending our home games in a “here to help” capacity. It will give the youngsters an opportunity to enhance their skills in interacting our visitors to Balmoor Stadium on a match day. Their role will be to help and assist by give directions, showing guests to their respective tables and seats and passing on messages for staff. It will be a great way for them to get involved.”