Honourable Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
One of the most prominent and respected women in sport, Denise is both a Director and Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Everton Football Club, and Executive Chair of the Club’s official charity, Everton in the Community.
It wouldn’t necessarily have to follow that Denise would be a huge Everton fan but actually, she does come from a long line of Blues and as a child one of her past-times was making Everton rosettes with her sisters, while on the wall of the family home hung a poster of the iconic centre forward, Bob Latchford.
Growing up in the South Liverpool suburb of Aigburth, Denise went on to graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University and studied for her doctorate at LJMU for a thesis entitled:,21st Century Headteacher: Guardian of Pedagogy or Visionary Leader? Before venturing into the charity sector and the world of sport, Denise spent 16 years working in education, fulfilling a variety of academic and leadership roles which focused on change management through delivering intervention or engagement projects in areas of high deprivation. Notably she worked with young people and adults impacted by harsh social conditions, and armed with such a range of vital experience, in 2010 Denise joined Everton with the aim of developing and leading a transformation strategy for Everton in the Community.
Denise has more than exceeded this objective and since her appointment the charity has received more than 100 local, national and international award wins in recognition of its life-changing and life-saving work, which includes providing routes into education, training and employment, steering young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour and engaging children and adults, regardless of ability, in physical activity and away from isolation. In addition to helping individuals, Everton in the Community also helps other charitable groups to improve the lives of local people. For its pioneering work it has won 'Community Club of the Year' at the Northwest Football Awards for four out of the last five years as well as recognition from former Prime Minister David Cameron through a ‘Big Society Award’. Success on the continent has also been forthcoming, with the charity winning a Stadium Business Award for being the 'Best Community Scheme in Europe’ with Denise being invited by Pope Francis to share best practice at the ecumenical conference on Sport and Humanity hosted at the Vatican.
Other impressive achievements of Everton in the Community include supporting 2,000 local charities a year, contributing to a 65% reduction in anti-social behaviour and a 79% reduction in crime in challenging areas across Merseyside, assisting over 50% of participants on the employment programme to return to work, and running an extensive number of disability teams.
Denise’s outstanding work with Everton In The Community was recognised in 2014 when she was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for ‘Services to the Community of Merseyside.’ Denise received further acknowledgment for her “exceptional commitment, service and leadership to the stadium industry over a sustained period of time” when she was presented with an ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ at the prestigious Stadium Business Awards, recognising leadership, innovation and achievement in the delivery, operation and management of sports facilities globally.
Alongside her work with Everton in the Community, Denise is also credited playing an integral part in improving the matchday experience for supporters, in turn helping to increase attendances and enhance Everton’s reputation both nationally and abroad. Her widespread contributions to the club led to her being appointed to the Club's Board of Directors in July 2016 with, EFC Chairman, Bill Kenwright, commenting: “Put simply, Denise embodies Everton. She embodies the People’s Club. To have her on the Board just makes perfect sense.”
Sport England, the national body for grassroots sports, evidently echoed Bill’s thoughts and in September last year the prestigious organisation invited Denise to become a Board member, and she is the only representative from the world of football to be appointed to the position.
It is her role at Everton that Denise is most proud of though, and she commented in a recent interview she feels fortunate to have her dream job. “I’m an Evertonian and I’m proud to have been born into the Everton family,” she said. “For 365 days a year, we are the People’s Club, embodying everything that means. If we can support members of our community in having access to the most basic human needs, such as shelter and food, then to me, we should reach out and offer that support.”
For her sustained, outstanding contributions to charity and community engagement in Liverpool, it is with great pleasure that I present Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.