Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale MBE, recognised as one of the most prominent and highly-respected women in the world of football, has delivered her Inaugural Professorial Lecture at Liverpool Hope University.
In November 2016, Professor Barrett-Baxendale, who is Director and Deputy Chief Executive of Everton Football Club and Executive Director of Everton in the Community, was appointed as Visiting Professor in Sport at the Service of Humanity.
An Inaugural Professorial Lecture provides an opportunity for academics to share their achievements in research, innovation, engagement and teaching activities before an audience of members of the University community and the general public.
The lecture – Modern Day Football Social Schemes: Sport at the Service of Humanity or Superficial Social Albi? – questioned the impact social schemes provided by football can have on modern society and whether they are being done in the right way and for the right reasons.
Speaking about the lecture and its theme, Professor Barrett-Baxendale said: “I was honoured to be invited by Professor Pillay, Vice Chancellor of Liverpool Hope, to deliver this lecture at the EDEN theatre about a subject that is very close to my heart. A lot has been made of modern day football social schemes and I wanted to explore the topic with the principal point for consideration being whether there is a genuine integrity, authenticity and goodwill in the apparent altruism of modern football, or whether this is just a sinister disguise to mask the excesses of the modern game; a cynical counter-balance to it decadence and disconnection from those who stimulate its commercial success.
“At Everton in the Community we have successfully been able and continue use the power of sport to motivate, educate and inspire people in our communities to improve their life chances. It is through this approach, we have earned a reputation for delivering best practice in the sporting charity sector providing ongoing support and development opportunities for thousands of participants.”
Professor Barrett-Baxendale initially arrived at Everton Football Club in January 2010 to develop and lead a transformation-strategy for Everton in the Community. Under her stewardship ‘EitC’ is widely recognised as one of the most pioneering sporting charities in the world, at the forefront of social intervention across Merseyside and not afraid to tackle issues which others shy away from. Through its 120 dedicated full-time staff, 72 casual staff and 144 volunteers the charity now offers over 40 programmes covering a range of social issues including health, employability, anti-social behaviour, crime, education, dementia, poverty, youth engagement and disability.
Due to Everton’s and Professor Barrett-Baxendale’s prominence in the field, she was invited to attend a global conference for faith and sport by Pope Francis. Professor Barrett-Baxendale shared EitC’s best practice spanning over 30 years at the ‘Sport at the Service of Humanity’ conference held at the Vatican in October 2016. The global event was the first of its kind.
Closing the inaugural lecture, Professor Pillay said: "Professor Barrett-Baxendale has made a compelling argument that Everton in the Community's social schemes are based wholly to serve the community in which it is based. Their work provides a vision of what can be achieved when football teams recognise the ability and responsibility they have to improve the lives and opportunities of the community that supports them. As a University we share many common values with Everton in the Community, which is why we are delighted that we have formed a five-year research partnership to help inform their future activities."
Professor Barrett-Baxendale added: “I’d like to thank everyone involved in the support and organisation of this event particularly Professor Newport who delivered the preliminary citation. I am extremely fortunate to have such a fantastic team of dedicated staff and volunteers who are incredibly passionate about their roles and the difference our charity makes to participants of our projects. Everything I shared in the lecture about our work and achievements is only possible thanks to the tireless work of my colleagues who provide a ‘nil satis nisi optimum’ experience for all of our participants.”
Everton Football Club and Liverpool Hope University are currently two years into a five-year partnership which will see the University’s research and analysis supporting the Club to further develop its knowledge in corporate and performance spheres, technology development and performance, all of which will be beneficial in taking future strategies forward.