Over the festive period the Spartans Community Football Academy were delighted to learn that our Chairman, Craig Graham, had been awarded an MBE for services to sport and the community of Edinburgh in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.
Craig has received many notes of congratulation from across the world of football and beyond, and we wanted to add our own congratulations to our Chairman, leader, motivator, mentor, visionary, clubman and, not forgetting, goalkeeper of the Spartans Family.
Craig joined the Spartans club in 1984 as a young graduate playing as a goalkeeper. After two years in Edinburgh he then lived in Aberdeen and London before returning to London and playing again with Spartans from 1994. He would go on to play for both the 1st and 2nd XIs over the following 10 years with considerable success. His dedication included travelling back from work commitments as far away as Zurich and Amsterdam to simply train and don the club colours. Craig became Chairman (or Club Captain as it was then called) in 1996 and so started the growth of the Club and Academy that we know today.
As a hands-on Chairman, Craig led a period of critical growth and sustainability for Spartans. The expansion to three senior men’s teams was followed by the successful development of youth and woman's sections. By the mid 2000’s Craig had begun to develop an exciting vision for the Club which hinged on a move across the road from the traditional home of Spartans - City Park, to a new home at Ainslie Park and the creation of the charitable arm of the club - the Spartans Community Football Academy.
New Home - New beginnings
Through Craig’s determination, dedication and leadership (including an estimated attendance at over 200 meetings!), the vision of a new home for the football club and a football based social enterprise, the Spartans Community Football Academy, became a reality. Craig successfully navigated legal, financial and planning processes, engaged with local community stakeholders and was instrumental in raising over £3m. In 2008 the new 3000 capacity facility at Ainslie Park opened its doors.
Charity, Club and Social Impact
In 2018 we are excited to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Spartans Community Football Academy. In the past decade The Academy has worked hard to support and deliver positive social impact in the community and residents of North Edinburgh through the power of people and sport.
In delivering and driving forward both The Academy and the Club, Craig has helped to develop a blueprint that has been used as an inspiration by many other football and sports clubs across Scotland and beyond. Twenty years on his vision delivers among other things;
• Commnunity education programmes including the Academy’s own alternative school, homework clubs and dental health programme
• Volunteering and ambassador programmes aligned to national Saltire Awards
• Extensive and ground breaking youth work including: youth clubs; diversionary activities; free facility access for young people and youth work in local Primary Schools
• Dedicated programmes for para football
• Men's and women's football squads from under 8s to over 35s, with some 600 regular, competitive players in total
• Kids' coaching from age 3-12 years encompassing over 1500 children
The ‘House that Craig built’
Craig’s leadership, dedication and determination have supported the growth and development of the Club and The Academy and he is actively involved all aspects of the Spartans Family. Never shirking responsibility or seeking the limelight, he has expertly driven the Spartans Community Football Academy and Club forward, helping to deliver transformational change in our surrounding community of North Edinburgh.
We couldn’t be more proud of the man whose determination, drive and business acumen are matched only by a boundless energy and pursuit of progress and a genuine, philanthropic desire to help others.
Thank you Craig, and congratulations from everyone in the Spartans Family on your well deserved honour.