Fresh from the Raith Rovers Community Foundation (RRCF) being named Best Professional Club in the Community, the charity’s general manager Paul Greig had one message: ‘This is just the beginning’.
Clutching the glistening prize from the star-studded Scottish FA Grassroots Awards at Hampden, Greig had ample cause to proudly reflect on a remarkable achievement.
He has been in place for just 20 months and leads a team of three full-time staff members, along with JJ Henderson and Alan Lowe.
They are supplemented by 15 part-time workers and ‘an army’ of 80 volunteers.
The Covid crisis has been a constant spectre at the feast throughout his reign, yet the foundation have gone the extra mile to inspire, engage and support the people of Kirkcaldy and beyond.
FESTIVE FRIENDS | We are delighted to once again support the @SPFLTrust #FestiveFriends initiative with support from partners The Linton Lane Centre, Hosting Hope & Newcraigs Church we will deliver 200 hampers on Xmas Eve & provide a meal at Stark’s Park to 50 people. 🎄🎅🏼💙🤗 https://t.co/ScMUGggC7Y
— Raith Rovers Community Foundation (@RaithRoversCF) November 29, 2021
“We have navigated a global pandemic despite being a very small charity,” Greig tells Courier Sport. “And now our foundation programme services just short of 500 people on a weekly basis.
“The community club — the pathway to the men’s and women’s first-teams — services 400 individuals every week.
“To go from zero to supporting well over 800 people on a weekly basis, in the space of 20 incredibly challenging months, is the thing that gives us the most pride.”
The endeavours of RRCF go well beyond hosting training sessions for kids — as laudable and pivotal as that is.
Greig and his team have liaised closely with Fife Council, Active Fife, Fife Sport and Leisure and Fife College on myriad projects.
Mental health charities Andy’s Man Club and Time to Tackle; Sporting Memories, which seeks to support those enduring dementia, depression and loneliness; The Cottage Family Centre, which aids vulnerable children — RRCF work with them all.
Walk-and-talk gatherings, reminiscing sessions and school visits are among a swathe of other initiatives.
“We all have very similar missions so why should we work on our own?” continued Greig. “Let’s join forces and create something that is really powerful for our community.
“We are determined to use sport and the brand of Raith Rovers for good. We want Stark’s Park to be the heartbeat of our local area.”
A modern Stark’s Park
Already looking to the future, Greig is enthused by the impending improvements planned for Stark’s Park.
“I had a discussion with [Raith Rovers owner] John Sim when it was announced that we had won the award and we both agreed: this is just the beginning,” continued Greig.
“It is humbling to have won this award after just 20 months of our strategy being in place, but we don’t stop now.
“Just imagine what we can do once the community hub is built, when we have the Titan facility pitch-side; redevelopments that will make Stark’s Park a modern venue that supports community engagement, 24/7.”
Drumming up support
A happy byproduct of RRCF’s efforts is invaluable engagement with lapsed and burgeoning supporters alike on behalf of the Rovers.
“We see supporters who stopped going to watch Raith, for whatever reason, who are now going to games again,” Greig continued. “And more and more kids want to watch the Rovers.
“They wear their Rovers training apparel and jerseys at training sessions with pride!
— Scottish FA (@ScottishFA) November 28, 2021
“The management team [John McGlynn and Paul Smith] have actually commented on the increase in young fans coming through the gates.
“And I think we can all agree that John and the playing staff are doing an absolutely phenomenal job in terms of making sure they want to come back every week.”
McGlynn’s influence goes well beyond crafting the finest Raith Rovers team in decades.
In a fascinating career, Greig has worked in development roles for the Scottish FA and Hearts.
He worked within the New Zealand Football Association and been assistant manager in the USA with Sky Blues (now NJ/NY Gotham).
But he has never encountered a boss so committed to grassroots efforts and community engagement.
COACH DEVELOPMENT | Last night was special 📚⚽️ What an insightful & knowledgable evening for all involved 💙⚽️ The Raith Rovers family starting to take shape throughout the Community 🤗⚽️💙 pic.twitter.com/Qs83vwRjH6
— Raith Rovers Community Foundation (@RaithRoversCF) November 10, 2021
“The way John McGlynn and Paul Smith embrace our work is incredible,” lauded Greig. “They just get it.
“They constantly give us their time and expertise.
“Whether it’s delivering food parcel and hampers, serving meals to the elderly or just spending five minutes with the kids training on the pitch, they could not be more supportive.
“The playing staff are the exact same. This is a group of people who understand and appreciate the connection with the community, and how special it is to build that.”