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11 October 2014

Jez Says

It would be remiss of me not to talk about our link with the other CUFC in town when our visitors this afternoon are from the other famous university city.

Whilst today's fixture doesn't have quite the historical relevance or worldwide interest of the boat race, we do welcome sky cameras to the R Costings Abbey Stadium.  I am sure their presence has much to do with the "Varsity" angle in the proceedings.]

Whenever we are featured on TV, there will always be an angle on the grandeur of the magnificent colleges that make up Cambridge University and the influence they have on our city.  The university attracts tourists, influences the type of hi tech industry that locates here and ensures that Cambridge is known across the entire globe.  On the Football League show a couple of weeks ago, it was the usual story.  The historic, impressive and instantly recognisable views of the colleges followed by our antiquated stadium, showing the portacabins that should be condemned, the supporters club with paint peeling off the roof and the dilapidated terraces.  One of our most immediate challenges must be to address this issue, but that's for another day.  Our facilities are barely fit for purpose, wholly inadequate to generate income on non match days and through any corporate hospitality, a financial drain and need addressing dramatically if the club is going to survive, then prosper and be able to progress.  The irony of a city with two institutions that play such a role within the community but are so detached is never expressed more eloquently than when you compare their iconic buildings to our "facilities".

We are building links on the ground with the university through what we do best; football.  In the future, we hope that our trust can work with many of the colleges in charitable projects and tap into the huge volunteer base of students within Cambridge to deliver programmes through education and sport, so that we can improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.  To that end, we have appointed a trust manager, who will be announced next week.  This appointment will further strengthen this relationship and develop the outreach of our trust to a new level. 

Last season, we delivered projects through the trust to over 7500 youngsters.  This year we aim to break the 10,000 barrier.  We coach hundreds of children in schools every week, thousands of youngsters take part in courses each year and we have an academy that has played Liverpool and Chelsea in the last two weekends.  We really need to articulate the message over the next few weeks and months about the role of the club within the community.  To develop a "fit for purpose" stadium, so that we can grow in the future, the club will need the support of the councillors, politicians and public opinion.  When you walk round the colleges, the sheer weight of history is inspirational.  Colleges that are hundreds of years old.  Our football club can't quite match that but we are over 100 years old and we want to be around for at least the same again, being the source of pride to our supporters and our city.

Before the game, please welcome the players of Cambridge University onto the pitch.  We helped them last season by managing and coaching the blues team for the first time ever.  Our staff all played their part and it was a chance to make a real contribution to their football and get an insight in how the relationship could grow.  The obvious thought is that we can attract more spectators to our games but in reality, the number of students that will trek down Newmarket Road for League Two football is minimal.  The real way of developing links, as with any relationship, is through mutual benefit and longevity.  When you consider the brand of Cambridge University, and the number of great minds who graduate from this city, there will be a massive benefit for the club to build these links at all levels over a long period of time.

Talking of which, we are pleased to welcome Dr John Little and his wife, Wendy, as our guests this afternoon.  They both play a massive role in football at the university, John has played, managed and now sits on several FA committees.  His influence is huge across academia and sport, and we have really enjoyed getting to know him and work with him over the last fifteen months. 

The last Oxford v Cambridge clash was staged at Craven Cottage on the day of the Boat Race.  My influence was obvious, as the game finished goalless!  Childs, Hutton, May and Gorringe all held their nerve from 12 yards in the penalty shoot out that followed and big Fergus did a pretty good impression of Dudek in Instanbul to ensure the cup remained in Cambridge.  A crowd of over 3000 saw Ant lift the silverware and win the varsity match.  A lot of those players enjoyed several trips to the R Costings Abbey Stadium last season (and Wembley), and whilst many have now left to pursue their careers, we hope we've converted them into CUFC fans and they will keep in touch with the club.  There are going to be some top earners amongst them so you never know, maybe we will find a few benevolent benefactors!

With Clare Osbourn moving on to another career, no-one reminded me about these notes so as I write the clock is ticking to my deadline!  So that's it.  I will talk about the new job as and when we can make some appointments and changes.  

In the meantime, I would like to finish with a few words about an unsung hero who is reaching a significant milestone today.  Terry Baker is a massive fan of the club, he has served the club in many roles, most notably as chairman, vice chairman and now a director, and adds his own brand of humour, wit and the occasional critical observation to our board meetings!  He's passionate about the club, very intelligent and has obvious business acumen.  But he's also very kind and generous.  He shares my passion for this club developing young players, and he has supported the academy and trust financially when things have been tough in the past.  Terry and Val, his wife, also made an unbelievable donation of £6,760 to Mission676 this year.  I have a lot of respect for him and I am really grateful to him for his support over the years.  So please join in wishing Terry a very happy 80th birthday.  Maybe the stadium could even manage a song for him?!

Enjoy the game.


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