"It should be something we bang the drum about" - Halifax's sporting successes at Wembley this year can create a long-term legacy

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It's been a year that will go down as one of the biggest in Halifax's sporting history.

The year that the town's two biggest clubs both won at Wembley; FC Halifax Town lifting the FA Trophy after beating Gateshead in May and Halifax Panthers securing the 1895 Cup having edged out Batley Bulldogs in August.

The clubs have experienced Wembley wins previously, but to do it in the same year helped put Halifax on the sporting map like never before.

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"It should be something we bang the drum about as a club and a town, that both ourselves and the rugby club have had that success in the same year," says Town manager Chris Millington.

Halifax Panthers celebrate their win in the 1895 cupHalifax Panthers celebrate their win in the 1895 cup
Halifax Panthers celebrate their win in the 1895 cup

"If we're astute and we're clever and we work hard to exploit the opportunities it presents to both clubs then there's no reason why it can't give us a next level of success.

"I know there are certain ways we tried to exploit it as a football club in terms of our recruitment and establishing a legacy of players over a longer duration of contracts.

"Hopefully that can give us a platform to have more success.

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"I think there's definitely a legacy for both clubs of going to Wembley and as we celebrate the cultural heritage of Calderdale next year I think it's something we can use to build into that period to really showcase all the best qualities of the town."

FC Halifax Town v Gateshead, FA Trophy Final at Wembley StadiumFC Halifax Town v Gateshead, FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium
FC Halifax Town v Gateshead, FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium

Dave Grayson, Halifax Panthers chairman, also feels their Wembley win can benefit his club longer-term.

"I've watched the highlights since the game and there's a lot of camera shots on young smiling faces, and at the photo event with the trophy a tiny little tot, who was smaller than the trophy, was put alongside it and I just thought 'we're getting the message through there'," he says.

"I so hope it's not just a one-off - those people come again, they bring their children and they get a bit older and bring their own families.

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"That's how I did it and I'm sure many supporters went through that process, and I think we've started that again, I really do.

Halifax Panthers after winning the 1985 cup at WembleyHalifax Panthers after winning the 1985 cup at Wembley
Halifax Panthers after winning the 1985 cup at Wembley

"I think we've touched that point again and we just need to capitalise on that now and build on it."

Steve Nichol, head of youth development at FC Halifax Town, says both clubs are already doing sterling work in the community, but that this summer's successes can accelerate that.

"Congratulations to Chris, Simon and their coaching teams for such an amazing achievement with both clubs winning at Wembley," Nichol said.

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"As well as being based in offices side by side at the Shay we work alongside the Panthers in partnership with Calderdale College and I see first-hand the work being done by both clubs to support the development of players and young people in Calderdale.

FC Halifax Town v Gateshead, FA Trophy Final at Wembley StadiumFC Halifax Town v Gateshead, FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium
FC Halifax Town v Gateshead, FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium

"Such success helps to shine a light on the wider work taking place at both clubs and whilst the euphoria of winning maybe short term, it can have a longer-term impact to increase interest, profile and provide a catalyst for ongoing development, engagement and participation.

"With the increased visibility and profile due to the successes of both clubs and the role models it generates there will hopefully be more boys and girls dreaming about playing the game and following in their footsteps.

"Others may choose to engage in others way, attending fixtures, coaching or volunteering. Such successes can be a catalyst to increase engagement and help to bring people together, encourage people of different backgrounds to interact and ultimately build stronger communities through sport."

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Chris Wragg, Ryburn United Football Club chairman, feels the ripple-effect of Town's Wembley win can be seen all the way down to the amateur end of the game.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, the recent success for our local professional team is having a positive impact at a grassroots football level," he says.

"With very little effort as a club we quickly filled four full coaches for players, parents and coaches to watch the game at Wembley.

Victorious Panthers coach Simon GrixVictorious Panthers coach Simon Grix
Victorious Panthers coach Simon Grix

"Of course those involved with football at all ages will have their favourite team as a global brand but there is a desire to also support local endeavours and we see this within the membership of Ryburn United FC.

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"The demand for player membership from under six upwards continues to outstrip our ability to provide space, we are not entirely sure if this in part can be attributed to the success of Halifax Town but given the excitement generated from the success this undoubtedly has a positive impact.

"Our ability to provide spaces for children is directly linked to the availability of suitable playing surfaces and the willingness of parents and guardians to take on the role of coach and all that this must entail."When asked what the council or grassroots clubs might do to try and capitalise on the Wembley success, Chris said: "Continue to forge the direct links between FC Halifax Town and grassroots clubs.

"We have provided guard of honour and ball boy/girl provision at games for both The Shaymen and the Panthers, and this should be continued.

"The efforts to extend in the community across gender needs to be reviewed if resources allow as we have felt that, despite our expressly presented desire to form a direct route for a female adult team from our club into the brand of FC Halifax Town, the resources and resulting willingness in the last two seasons has not been possible.

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"Linking involvement to the Wembley success in its own right is not the direct catalyst in driving participation, this was an amazing achievement which will have an influence on the FC Halifax Town brand and participation but it is all about actions speaking louder than words now.

"Wembley created a real buzz in the town and amongst the football fraternity in Halifax, we felt this in our club and we do see this in our membership at a children’s level.

"This will only become sustainable by building the direct links to grassroots football as described and by ongoing future investment in the facilities at the Shay.

"As Halifax folk we need to continue to feel pride in the club, its achievements and in providing first rate facilities that we can be proud of.

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"A first rate facility is more than just hosting football, this is as much about a facility to drive entertainment and participation across the arts, music, sport and the corporate demands of Calderdale."

Councillor Tim Swift, Calderdale Council’s Deputy Leader, hopes the two clubs' legacy will mean more people taking part in regular sporting activities.

He said: “Congratulations to Halifax Panthers and FC Halifax Town for their incredible wins at Wembley.

"Calderdale has a long and proud history of sport, and this double achievement puts the borough firmly on the sporting map.

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“Football and rugby are an important part of our local heritage and leisure. We know how much local people value them, and how proud they are of the clubs’ triumphs.

“We have already seen the amazing long-term impact that sports tournaments can have on the number of local people taking part. For example, we’ve been delighted to see more women and girls playing football after the success of the Lionesses in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, and during the Women’s World Cup, and we hope the Halifax wins at Wembley inspire a similar legacy across all our diverse communities.

“We are always pleased to see more people playing sport and being active, because this supports our Active Calderdale mission to work with communities to make physical activity a part of everyday life. Moving more, playing sport socially or competitively, and being part of a community of sports fans, are all great for people’s health and wellbeing.”