AstonVilla FC, one of the founding members of the Football League back in 1888, launched a new fan engagement project with the help of a £18,900 grant from the Premier League Fans Fund. Named “TheVilla Experience” and run by the club’s community arm, the AstonVilla Foundation, the initiative aims to foster improved engagement betweenVilla and the local community. Investment from the Premier League Fans Fund enabled the West Midlanders to improve their matchday experience atVilla Park by developing and upgrading activities on offer at their on-site Fan Zone. For lifelong Villa supporter Jim Canning, the upgraded area has been a huge addition to the matchday experience for the whole family: “The new Fan Zone is a brilliant place for us to enjoy before home games. When I saw that it had been upgraded and branded with Villa legends from across the years, it added a real feeling of knowing you were at Villa Park for the children and it has been brilliant fun for us all. The kids get to have a great time, and we can enjoy a day out at the football as a family in a safe and comfortable setting.” The club has also used the funding to deliver a number of heritage workshops at local primary schools. These sessions aim to educate children about the history of the club andVilla hope that they will spark a new wave of young, local supporters. Adam Pattinson, a teacher at Mere Green Primary School said: “The visit to Villa Park was not like your traditional tour, it had educational input throughout, such as the history behind Aston Villa FC. I think using what resources the stadium had, it helped engage pupils that usually switch off in lessons, therefore we would recommend this to other schools”. FOCUS ON FOOTBALL STADIA IMPROVEMENT FUND 19 “THE VILLA EXPERIENCE”