Sham Allardyce Takes on the Army
Sham Allardyce Takes on the Army
Charity fixture for Help for Heroes and Afghan Poverty Relief
Relay Recruitment Rovers, a Bradford football team from a largely Asian area is in talks with military chiefs about taking on an Army Select XI in a charity fixture to raise funds for soldiers injured in current conflicts and poverty relief in Afghanistan.
It is hoped that the fundraiser for Help For Heroes and Afghan Poverty Relief will be played at either the Bradford Citys Coral Windows Stadium or Elland Road, home of Leeds United at the end of the current football season.
The brainchild of Relay Recruitment Rovers manager, Shamshir Shah known universally as Sham Allardyce - it is the latest socially responsible project in a seven-year history that has seen the team become a lynchpin of community cohesion in the Barkerend area of the city and attract massive inward investment there.
This was fuelled by its on-pitch success, including an unprecedented rise through Sunday leagues, and winners of an amateur clubs world cup.
He established Relay Recruitment Rovers for players in the BD3 area in 2003. The team was saved from near instant oblivion, though, when its first backer dropped out and the Bradford recruitment agency stepped in as sponsor, mentor and kit and equipment provider under its Fit for Business programme.
Since then, it has gone on to become the schemes most successful beneficiary - both in terms of sporting achievement and wider knock-on benefits. The shrewd manager quickly proved both a great talent spotter and highly effective at marshalling his resources, steering it to glory after glory and attracting fanatical support along the way.
Its unprecedented rise through the Bradford Sunday Alliance League divisions saw Relay win promotion as champions five times in five years, then end its first season in the Premiership in third place. It also won the Umbro International Cup 2007, competed that year in Manchester by over a hundred teams from around the world.
Much more silverware now crams a groaning trophy cabinet and players have gone on to Farsley Celtic, while Sham has turned down scouting roles with Leeds United.
Relays devoted following among the local community has brought a renewed pride to the area. Barkerend is largely Asian, but inclusion for all is crucial to Sham. He has always encouraged anyone and everyone to come along for a trial and, over the years, the team has been represented by many ethnicities, cultures, faiths and nationalities.
Relay Recruitment Rovers plays a regular pre-season friendly with Guiseley AFC, and it is hoped that the Army charity game will become a permanent fixture too.
The team has been a tremendous force for good in Barkerend, with a bloom of social and economic benefits radiating from it - all springing from Relays primary aim channelling the energies of young people into positive pursuits. Sham said: Sport is not just good for fitness it keeps people mentally alert, raises their strategic and leadership abilities, sharpens competitiveness and keeps them on the straight and narrow - all fantastic qualities for young people in particular.
If they are off the streets in a safe environment and absorbed in an exciting, fast-moving team game with positive role models that has to be a good thing.
Following the massive upsurge in interest in sport inspired by the team, Bradford Council invested 2.5m transforming the clubs Myra Shay ground into a community recreation facility. Opened in July 2008, this includes five football pitches, a cricket wicket, kabbadi court, childrens play area and changing rooms. The Council is also currently developing an impressive cricket pitch complex off Barkerend Road and further projects are planned.
Away from sporting support, the community involvement and public pride generated by Relay Recruitment Rovers has also attracted millions of pounds of inward investment from the Councils 128m Regen 2000 fund.
Among the many projects financed that have improved the areas economy and quality of life are business support grants, employment creation packages, environmental enhancements, building restoration and youth development and lifelong-learning schemes.
Crucially, expert partner organisations, such as the local Chamber of Commerce & Industry, have also provided much-needed practical help and advice.
Shamshir Shah added: This is a perfect example of the value of a business getting behind a community initiative. It is no exaggeration to say that when Relay Recruitment stepped in to rescue the club in 2003, it started a social and economic transformation of the area.
There is now a tangible positiveness here. By that I mean both an enhanced positive outlook by BD3 people and far more positivity directed towards them from outside the district.
It was Relays initial generosity that shone the spotlight on some great people sorely in need of a vote of confidence. Following this was the realisation that here was a healthy, robust, go-ahead community with enterprise and values, worthy of investment and inclusion."