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Glasgow Rocks co-owner is going to great lengths to engage the community in his club

HE is an unlikely revolutionary.

Ian Reid appreciates the regeneration of a community is more than just a matter of bricks and mortar. Picture: Kirsty Anderson
Ian Reid appreciates the regeneration of a community is more than just a matter of bricks and mortar. Picture: Kirsty Anderson

He has succeeded in the world of business, been honoured by the Queen. But, as Ian Reid talks quietly in the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, it becomes increasingly clear that he views sport from a different perspective from most owners of clubs.

Reid, part-owner of Glasgow Rocks, has an agenda that extends far beyond success on the court or profit on the balance sheet. "I am interested in what sport can do for young people," he says. "I believe it can help change lives. Every player who comes in here has to buy into that."

There is no false piety, or pompousness about the statement. Reid, with a background in marketing and banking, has a plan. Indeed, he has several. They all involve engaging the community with his club.

The most bold are Jump2it and the Twilight initiatives. The first is available to primary school pupils all over Scotland and is managed by Scottish Sports Futures, a Glasgow- based charity that has Reid as its chief executive.

Jump2it promotes the benefits of proper diet and exercise and highlights the dangers of smoking and alcohol. Twilight is also a national programme providing free basketball for young people.

"We reach 8000 to 9000 pupils a year and players go to 100 schools a year," he says.

The message is delivered by professional sportsmen and heard by youngsters who find it can change their lives. "We have been involved in this for more than a decade and now we are finding kids in the national under-20 or under-16 squads who first came to the sport through these sort of visits."

Reid speaks of working with gangs in Drumchapel, visiting schools where there may be 14 nationalities because of the influx of asylum-seekers and bringing children to the wonderful Emirates Arena where they can sample the atmosphere of professional sport.

"Players are sometimes quite reluctant to get involved because they do not believe they can do it," he says of the prospect of addressing a roomful of children. "But they later come to me and say it has made them better people."

It seems the schemes are the sporting equivalent of a win-win situation and Reid praises the agencies that have allowed the plans to prosper. These include the national lottery and Sport Relief but Reid has reason to be thankful to Shell and, particularly, to the Cashback for Communities scheme that uses confiscated crime profits to fund good works.

Sitting in the East End, Reid appreciates the regeneration of a community is more than just a matter of bricks and mortar. On the table rests a schedule for Rocks players that can best be described as full-on. A series of matches is interspersed with roadshows, school visits and dates marked with an 'x'.

"These are the practice sessions," says Reid, who wants his club to push on after the move to the Emirates. "We were operating on fumes at first, then we stabilised and now we are beginning to make some money. The first match here attracted 5000 people when we had about 1000 at Kelvin Hall. That was exceptional but we are regularly getting 2000. It is a family sport, no bad language, no bigotry. We believe we can push it further."

He is consumed by the idea of legacy. The charity aspects are all about changing the very culture of Scotland and his move to bring David Low, the Glasgow businessman in as co-owner, was to ensure the club has a stable future.

Reid, an accomplished Masters swimmer, tells a story about how a coach once told him to use his large frame to stretch for every advantage. This led to him winning races by 100ths of a second. The lesson has stayed with him with the conviction that proper effort and advice can make goals achievable.

The website of Scottish Sports Futures carries the legend: "Helping young people make positive lifestyle choices through sport".

It is a message that reverberates in almost every statement Reid makes as he gives a guided tour around the Emirates Arena. "It is great what you can get for £113m," he says with a smile as he surveys first the velodrome and then the arena laid out for athletics.

Reid is working on a much more limited budget but his ideas have an extraordinary power. He has shown that sport can engage with communities, can change lives for the better and make a sustained, positive difference.

He addresses the prospect of other sports joining him in a formal manner. "There is the possibility of franchising the model, though obviously not for profit," he adds.

"Other professional teams could replicate what we do here and we could give them advice, a template on how to deliver. We have gained expertise over the years and we want to share it."

On the playing front, Rocks travel to Sheffield Sharks on Friday to contest a quarter-final of the BBL Trophy.

"We have lost five finals," says Reid ruefully. "We maybe need advice from Andy Murray or Ivan Lendl to make that breakthrough."

It is said with a smile. There has been success in the serious business of using the Rocks to move children from a hard place.

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