Bob Davies sat down with Jamie Edwards, the CEO of Shrewsbury Town in the Community, back in October to discuss his job and the role STITC plays in the Shropshire.
After chatting with Jamie Edwards at Montgomery Waters Meadow, it is not difficult to detect the enthusiasm he has for his job and the immense pride he feels for the people who work for him.
Jamie is the Chief Executive of Shrewsbury Town in the Community, a charitable organisation run separately from the football club with the role of marketing Shropshire’s only full-time professional club throughout the county and, as he explained, giving something back for the support they receive.
To illustrate the pride he has in the 52 people employed in the organisation, he cited how they had reacted to a problem that cropped up during the Covid pandemic.
“We were lucky how quickly we adapted to the pandemic,” he said. “Our staff were magnificent and probably more creative than me.
“We were making telephone calls to people who were socially isolated, lonely or whatever,” he said. “We couldn’t contact one lady, despite being in touch with the network of people around her. Our member of staff was so worried she drove out to her home and it turned out that she had hurt herself in a fall.
“She had got herself to hospital and was getting better but the people in that group were so concerned about her because they hadn’t heard from her. That sums up the quality of the staff we have. It is not just a job to them; it is something they are passionate about.”
Jamie dreamt of being a professional footballer as a youngster and joined the Hereford United School of Excellence as an eight-year-old. When the club got into financial difficulties he left and spent two years at Aston Villa before being released and joining Bristol City, where he spent four years in the youth team and then as a young professional without actually making it into the first team.
“I had moved away from home at the age of 16 and had to grow up pretty quickly, especially being a country boy from Herefordshire,” he said.
He tried to find a career for himself by working in a hotel and at a builder’s merchants while still playing for Newtown and Cwm Bran in the League of Wales.
The opportunity then cropped up for him to play in Melbourne and Sydney but, when problems over his visa cropped up – the Aussies, he said, only wanted “marquee players” – so he returned to Hereford and started his own football coaching business.
At the time, Graham Turner was the chairman and manager of Hereford United and he called him to say an opportunity had arisen for a community manager at the club. He was interviewed on a Friday and started work on the Monday.
“That was my journey into football in the community,” said Jamie.
He remained at Hereford until 2014, working with a former Shrewsbury Town player, Brian Williams, by which time Turner had moved to Shrewsbury, and he was offered a position in what then was the Shrewsbury Town Sports Trust, which was managed by Williams.
“It is strange how things go full circle,” said Jamie. “I first attended a soccer school with Brian in Hereford and, eight years later, I was working with him again at Shrewsbury.”
His job, he explained, was to lead the community department, which was separate from the football club for legal reasons, although they still felt very much a part of the club.
“We are a registered charity, and my job is to manage the strategic and operational direction of Shrewsbury Town in the Community. I see it as a way of the football club giving something back to the community.
“We ask fans to come and support us on a Saturday and there are many ways we can give back to the community through the 34 projects we run across the county.”
Jamie said they introduce boys and girls as young as three and four, to football. They run rehabilitation courses for people suffering from cancer and there is a club for the elderly which meets three times a week for people who live on their own and want some gentle exercise.
There is a community garden at the club, which people could visit, they run education courses and coaches go into primary schools, setting up an affiliation with people in the hope that they will come to watch games, which many of them do.
They operated Ludlow football stadium, which was fantastic as six or seven youngsters had graduated from there to join the Shrewsbury academy.
Jamie said they had also linked up with West Mercia Police to run what was a “diversity project” in areas suffering from a high crime rate.
“We are very proud of what we do and the money we generate to allow us to do it. We do class ourselves as self-sufficient,” Jamie added.
“Shrewsbury Town is a special football club. To me, it is a place where I’m really happy and proud to represent the club, and you know what, I love coming here every day. I consider myself really lucky to work for the football club.”