Warren Hawke Q&A: Chair of Trustees of Berwick Rangers Community Foundation

When the Berwick Rangers Community Foundation was formed in 2020, lots of questions were asked, including why it was set-up, what it will do and what impact it hopes to have in the Berwick-upon-Tweed area and further afield.

This Q&A with the Community Foundation Chair of Trustees Warren Hawke, who played for Berwick Rangers in the 1990s, hopes to answer some of those.

Why was the Berwick Rangers Community Foundation formed?

Over the years, football clubs, in general, have been quite inwardly thinking and I would say that what we’ve found across Scotland – and the UK – is that football clubs are beginning to take a different stance. Now, it’s not just about ‘What can the community do for us?’ but ‘What can we do for the community?’ That is ultimately why the Berwick Rangers Community Foundation has been set-up: to help the community by using the Berwick Rangers brand to the best possible needs of addressing physical activity and social issues within the area.

What will the Community Foundation do?

We’ve got an extensive business plan which has been developed over the years and it’s been tried and tested in other organisations. Ultimately, what we will be doing is, at the first stage, we will be building a football pathway. We will be supporting the local area in things that a football charity should be good at, which is football development but then moving on to Sport for Change and looking to address our social impact.

How will the Community Foundation help the football club?

This isn’t about the football club itself; it’s about having a strong Berwick Rangers charity. We are a separate organisation to the football club. However, we will work hand-in-hand with the football club to bring a positive community feel around the stadium, badge and all things black and gold.

Will there be any financial links between the Community Foundation and football club?

We are talking two completely separate organisations. We answer to the Charities Commission in England and ultimately, yes, there will be partnerships – including with Berwick Rangers Football Club because it’s mutually beneficial. But they won’t control us and we won’t control them. Whatever happens between the two organisations will be exactly that, so there’ll potentially be service level agreements and other agreements in place. But we only answer to the Charities Commission.

There are loads of local football clubs and organisations already, why another one?

In any walk of life and in any town or city, small or big, there are numerous fantastic boys clubs, girls clubs and community clubs, in football and other sports. We do not want to threaten what’s already in place; we want to complement, support and work together to ensure that the best possible provision is in place for as many children and adults as possible to participate in football and non-football-related activities.

Will you end up competing with the existing organisations?

I think we can complement a lot of organisations that are already in the area. If there is competition, I look at it in that if we can ensure our provision is the best that we can possibly deliver, other organisations need to do the same thing. It’s been proven at many of the projects I’ve been involved with that real positive competition raises standards of everything that gets delivered in a local area.

Berwick Rangers Juniors are the major youth football club in the town. Where do they fit into the Community Foundation’s plans?

I want to build close ties with as many local organisations as possible. If we’re doing coach development sessions for our coaches and we have ten coaches but there’s room on the course for 20 coaches, I’d extend an open invite. I want everybody in the local area to be as developed as possible and it’s very simple: we want to work with Berwick Rangers Juniors and support them as much as we can. We want to have a close working relationship with them and there are plenty of other local clubs and organisations that we want to build close ties with too.

What facilities in and around the town will you be looking to use?

The honest answer is I don’t know at the moment. We don’t know what the local area requires in terms of what projects that need to be focused on. What I will say though is that we’re an open door and we want to speak to people at council level and among local groups and if anyone thinks that the Berwick Rangers badge can add value to a project, then we’re open and flexible to anything and don’t want to be regimented into having to do specific projects.

What will the Trustees bring to their roles?

The Trustees haven’t just come onboard because six people approached us and said they’d love to be involved. They all bring different skills to the table, including communications, business development, local government, finance and administration, so we’ve got a very strong base there. It’s not just a committee, it’s a strategic group of people who can think and hopefully deliver. Any boardroom should have a balance of expertise and shouldn’t have a group of people who all have the same skillset and love football. It’s about fully understanding all areas that are required for governance of a board, whether that be a football club, company or charity. A balanced board with people with niche expertise, to me, is one of the first stipulations that you put in place when you start any organisation.

Overall, how is the Community Foundation going to benefit the local area?

I think you’ve got to look across the whole of the UK and when you have football-related charities working in social matters and addressing social inequalities, there is progress and support for the local area, and that is ultimately what we are trying to achieve for the Berwick area. We want to lead, we want to support and we want to create a real positivity for the delivery of projects, whether those are football-related or address social issues in and around the local area. We just want to be able to help as many people as possible and put something in place that the town can be proud of.

What’s the timeframe looking like for everything?

We got the green light for the charity a couple of months ago and if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, we’d probably be about six months ahead of where we’re at now. It’s been really difficult running a charity throughout the pandemic, even when you’re set-up an running. It’s even more difficult to start one up during a pandemic with all of the restrictions that are in place, so we’re in the hands of the Gods at the moment and we’ve just got to hope everybody gets through this and, post-pandemic, we’ll realign our projections and take it from there. But we’re confident that what was set out upon the launch of the Community Foundation can still be fulfilled. In fact, I think a Community Foundation such as this has even more relevance and importance now.