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Leyton buzz

Lord Justice Taylor's report into the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989, in which 96 Liverpool fans died, called on clubs to develop better relations with local communities. Few have done so as thoroughly as Leyton Orient with its community sports programme.

"We've always adopted a long-term approach that's all about doing mundane work," explains Neil Watson, who became the club's community officer a month after Hillsborough. "Real community work takes ages to do. It can't be a big event, or a blaze-of-fireworks thing. It's got to be community-led and completely organic."

As well as its education work, the scheme runs projects on housing estates in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest, and in prisons and for ex-offenders. There are accredited coaching, weight training and sports photography courses; a girls' and women's football programme; a deaf football team; a disability sports programme; and the scheme is involved in drugs rehabilitation and work on racial tolerance and with refugees.

In effect, it's a community development project that happens to be attached to a football club. "Our projects happen when the community's ready for them - they lead it," says Mr Watson. "But that wouldn't happen without the credibility that being part of the football club brings. Even a club as small as this is a powerful institution in the minds of local people."

Its influence will spread even further next year with the construction of an pound;8 million community sports centre next to the ground.

Contact Leyton Orient community sports programme on 020 8556 5973;

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