Football-mad ministers are Norwich City chaplains
Two football-loving Norfolk church ministers, who shout for their team from the stands at Carrow Road at every home match, also offer their support in a quieter way at Norwich City’s Colney training ground as the club’s chaplains. Keith Morris reports.
Rev Albert (Bert) Cadmore and pastor Jon Norman share a love of people, a love of football and a love of Norwich City.
Both were decent amateur goalkeepers in their younger days, but now they mostly continue their love of the beautiful game in full voice as season ticket holders at Carrow Road on match days. But they also offer a more personal level of support to their favourite team at the Colney training ground near Norwich as official club chaplains.
Non-stipendiary Anglican church minister, Bert, has been in the role for 15 years. He was joined by Norwich Soul Church pastor, Jon, a couple of years ago after he returned to his home city of Norwich after training as a church minister at Hillsong Leadership College in Sydney, Australia, and then being part of the pastoral team of Hillsong Church, Cape Town, attracting 12,000 people each Sunday.
Bert, who was a goalkeeper for Gorleston FC, and other local teams, said: “For me the role is about providing a supportive friendship and of just being there for the players and for everyone else, being a presence and hoping that does something for the ethos of the place.
“Our focus is at the training ground rather than at the stadium,” said Bert. “Chaplaincy is a resource for the club to use as it wishes. We are known throughout the club but you can only really get to know a certain number of people.”
Jon said: “I see our role as encouragers. Whether it is the young guy who has broken his leg in the youth team or a senior player who is struggling to break into the first team – we are encouragers – in the Barnabas role, for the good and the bad times.
“In chaplaincy you just never know what will come around the corner – you just look at the recent Brazilian football team plane crash. If a player loses a parent or their daughter is sick we are here to provide support if it is wanted.”
Bert added: “We are also there to celebrate the good as well as in hard times. We love it of course when our team is successful, but we are there for people. We are there for when people are ill or when they are bereaved.”
Bert has long-standing relationships with a number of ex-players. He has conducted baptisms for children of staff when requested and also funerals for former players.
A teacher for most of his career before training as a priest, Bert said: “The hardest thing is that by the very nature of the industry people come and people go. Players cope with it as they know that is the industry they are in.
“You just get to know somebody and then they are sold and leave,” said Jon. “Watching all the youth team players that are let go at the end of each season is also hard. But we just love working with people, helping them, encouraging them, supporting them.”
Sports chaplaincy has really grown since the turn of the millennium, especially in professional football with the growth of academies and the need for pastoral care stated in their charter - around 70 of the 92 Football League clubs now have chaplains.
It was Sammy Morgan, the first Norwich City academy director, who brought Bert into the club. Bert played alongside Sammy before he went into the professional game.
Bert is also a trustee of growing national Sports Chaplaincy UK network which has over 350 chaplains in a variety of sports – also including rugby union and league, tennis and even a horse racing chaplain in Newmarket. He is also chaplain at Gorleston FC, for the Norfolk and Suffolk Youth League and involved with the Norfolk Christian Football League and particularly his team UEA Rovers.
The duo are usually at Colney every Wednesday and often mix with players and staff in the cafeteria. Bert will be retiring from his role at the end of the season but Jon will be continuing the role. Jon said: “Everything at the football club is focused on body and mind, whereas we offer a focus on the other dimension, which is soul. We don’t push it but if we are asked we can tell them about our faith or church. But that is not the primary reason we are here.”
Bert summed up the role very concisely: “We are men of faith who love football and love people.” Enough said.
Simon Thomas at sporting and tribute night
On Sunday April 2, Soul Church has an evening with Sky sports presenter and Norwich City fan Simon Thomas, talking all things football, family and faith. They will also honour Norwich City Club Chaplain Rev Bert Cadmore for his 15 years of service. All are welcome from 5pm at Soul Church, Mason Road, Norwich.
Pictured above are Bert Cadmore and Jon Norman at Norwich City's Colney traning complex.