Faith and Football: Meet the County FA Chaplain

Religion and the football world have long been intertwined, with many current professional clubs starting life as an extension of church activity. Take Premier League outfit Southampton FC for example, formed by the choir of The Church of St Mary’s in 1885 (their current ground bearing this name in keeping with their proud history).

The Reverend Clive Potter has been the Surrey County FA chaplain for six years now, and while the link between the beautiful game and his line of work may be new to some, the proud West Ham fan believes that Sports Ministry is one of the most powerful tools in football.

“The concept of Sports Chaplaincy is big and in the area of football it’s increasing,” said Clive, Vicar of St John’s Church in Milford. 

“Many clubs have chaplains – Manchester United, Manchester City, Fulham – while QPR used to have two – one Anglican and one Baptist.

“Them and myself are a point of contact. Referees are a prime example of someone who may need support every now and again. If they need someone to talk through issues or even need an ear to sound off at then that person can be me or I can put them in touch with their local clergy.”

Clive is also keen to appeal to those outside of the world of football who may be looking for support, saying: “I look at the difficult areas of people’s lives and see if football can help make someone take forward steps, perhaps in terms of social inclusion."

Clive himself has a reputable football background, having worked with former England Under-18s coach Ted Powell, seen his son and daughter gain the Level 3 and Level 2 coaching awards respectively, and has also set up a number of clubs in Surrey, such as Christ Church United and St Francis Sports.

And it is this establishing of groups in local communities – football clubs and as well as wider organizations – which is another important area Clive is keen to help with as part of his role at the Surrey County FA.

“Through mine and other vicars role in the community, we can help spread the word about activities that are happening. It’s important to highlight these community events.

“We’re currently running a football event on Saturday mornings with Waverley Borough Council which has seen some of the kids attending go on to do the Junior Football Leaders course or gain the Level 1 coaching award,” Clive added.

The role of Sports Ministry was thrust into the spotlight earlier this month after is was alleged troubled Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli had turned to the their club’s chaplain for help. So what would Clive say if it was him dealing with the Italian forward?

“You’d look to take a positive route with him. It’s tough, the attention is always on him. He is a tremendous player with the world at his feet. Every generation throws up a Balotelli – look at George Best and Gazza. I’d remind him of this and mention how he doesn’t have to go down the same path."

Finally, the million dollar question – would he ever ask a higher power to intervene in order to get West Ham three points?

“Should we ever pray for a win? Personally, I wouldn’t. We have to always applaud good play. Football is part of life, and life is full of winning and losing, be it someone recovering from ill health or succumbing to it and dealing with their death.  In football you have to be realistic – it is what it is.”

To contact Clive, please view our Staff Contacts page.