COLCHESTER United Football in the Community's activities will get back underway at Shrub End today.

And their Head of Community Corin Haines believes they will return with a raised profile, following their incredible work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the few part months, the U's official charity partner has coordinated and delivered more than 200 hours of community outreach work in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Colchester United Football in the Community (FITC) has delivered more than 850 food parcels and 100 hours of collections for Colchester Foodbank.

They have also provided support for older people suffering from isolation, along with helping individuals who need to improve their physical health or mental wellbeing.

Ahead of the charity's 'Safe Return to Play' phased re-opening of their Shrub End Community and Sports Centre base today, Haines says their huge efforts during the lockdown period have helped broaden horizons.

He said: "It's hopefully opened some doors to different types of people and organisations that wouldn't necessarily had come across us.

"From that point of view, it's been fairly positive and it's raised the profile of community club organisations across the country.

"The media focus on 3pm matchday and rightly so, because without that we don't exist.

"But without that happening, it enabled us to raise our profile because of the work that we've been doing out there.

"It's also been refreshing for our staff to contribute in such a way.

"It's quite incredible the amount of food parcels the guys have delivered and the number of people we've come into contact with who ordinarily, we'd never have engaged with."

FITC has produced a Safe Return to Play Parents and Players document, along with a short video and map, as they open their doors again.

The document shows the new procedures for entering and exiting Shrub End for scheduled sessions and training, including arrival and departure information for parents.

Haines admits they will have to adopt a different way of coaching - but says they are expecting their activities to be as popular as ever, despite the restrictions.

He said: "Within 48 hours of us sharing with our current programme participants, we had 300 spaces available of which 200 of them were sealed in that first 48 hours.

"It gives you an idea of people's confidence levels, I think.

"We have to manage the risk and we're very fortunate to have our own facility to do that.

"We took some time to reassess things.

"We looked at some alternatives and we liaised with stakeholders and the local authority and it feels about right now.

"We've been very well informed by the EFL and the Premier League about up and coming Government changes prior to them being made public.

"We've had a really good insight into certain things and the key decision makers at national level, which has helped us shape when we can return.

"But we also wanted to return at the right time for our participants - had we tried to return too early, it might have had a negative impact.

"We can also now reintroduce our staff in on a part-time basis and start building up their confidence again and their patterns of normality.

"We're probably going full circle in terms of the way the guys will have to work, in that we'll be going quite old school.

"It will be very much repetitive exercises, drills as opposed to nowadays where the emphasis is very much more on creativity, decision making and game based."

FITC aims to get people in the community taking part in a wide range of activities through four main strands - Sports Participation, Education, Health and Inclusion, and Facility Development.

"We'll have something pretty much for everyone," added Haines, who has been working at the charity for 20 years.

"We're still doing all of the outreach work, which is supporting the vulnerable.

"There's some mentoring and transition with primary school students, one-to-one and small group coaching, boys and girls development centre, holiday activities, grassroots skills and skill centre development programmes.

"It's kind of a mixture of subscription-based core football with some education programmes that we're doing virtually that are quite creative and innovative education programmes.

"There'll also be some free PE for a couple of weeks - Free PE for FITC - which is supporting children in their last two weeks of term who aren't at school.

"We're not taking massive numbers but we're offering it out to a small group.

"We're also going out to some schools as well.

"We will be delivering from this week approximately 200 hours - we'd normally be delivering about 400 hours a week so we're close to 50 per cent capacity."

For more information on Colchester United Football in the Community, ring 01206 755160 or email

Activities can be booked online at