By Rob Cornell
The chance to help improve the lives of those less fortunate living within Merton is the motivating factor behind AFC Wimbledon's newly installed Foundation Director Philip Rudling.
"That was the attraction in particular when I got the post," said Philip, who has been getting to grips with the role for a month and a half now. "I was excited about the stadium development (at Plough Lane) and as a Foundation there is a lot of potential work we can do there. A big part of my remit is to make sure we are out and about as much as possible in the borough of Merton.
"My perception when coming here was that it would be very different from areas I've been working in, in East London, and I thought a lot of it would be leafy suburbs. A lot of it is, but there are key areas of deprivation too in Merton, as well alongside quite wealthy areas.
"Working on estates and with young people, who are deprived in their upbringing, is another area which interests me in particular and so I think we can use the power of AFC Wimbledon to hopefully change their lives as well.
"We've got a very strong women's and girls programme and there's quite a lot of disability sessions going on as well. We have the walking football team and 'Fan Active', which we want to work on, and support the health and wellbeing of the local community. We perhaps want to work with some older people as well."
The full interview with our new Foundation Director Philip Rudling is available via a link to our official club YouTube channel below.
Our Foundation has made great strides and achieved a lot locally in a relatively short space of time since its inception. Now, under new guidance, there is fresh thinking at the helm to lead this area of the club into exciting and potentially rewarding new areas within the Wimbledon area as the club gears up for a return to its roots.
"I worked at Leyton Orient for about 20 years and in my role there I did a range of different positions. My background is education and we developed lots of education projects with about 100 young people doing full-time BTEC sport qualifications and other bits and pieces, but the opportunity came up to be Foundation Director at Wimbledon.
"It's a club I've always kind of followed over the years and it was a great opportunity for me to become director and take on some new challenges. I've been here about a month and I've been getting to know the staff and the areas and also finding out about the work of the foundation.
"It's been great as there has been excellent work achieved in the past few years and my remit is to build on that and bring in some new funding streams and new ideas as well. Obviously, we are doing things in Kingston and Wandsworth as well, but the focus for me has to be establishing ourselves in that borough as much as possible and making sure we are a part of the community in Merton."
Education shapes a key part of Philip's immediate plans for the next year and the Foundation has received a welcome boost from a Premier League initiative to help with this.
"One of our big remits, probably for the next 12 months, is to make sure our schools programme and our education programme is well established. We've done some good stuff in the past, but we've got some additional funding from a project called 'Primary Stars' which is a Premier League charitable funding stream and that gives the freedom for most schools in Merton to offer 'engagement'.
"We'll go into primary schools and do sports coaching, but also look into curriculum support – using the power and motivation of sport to work with young people to make a difference in the classroom as well as in the gym or on the playing field."
To find out more about activities hosted by the AFC Wimbledon Foundation, visit https://www.afcwimbledonfoundation.com/ .