The release of the New Year Honours List for 2014 was a very special occasion for two long serving members of The Football League Trust's network.
Zanib Rasool, Community Projects Manager at Rotherham United Community Sports Trust, and Jason Morgan, Chief Executive at Charlton Athletic Community Trust, were both awarded MBE's for their outstanding contributions to community work in their local areas.
It is no coincidence that the organisations Zanib and Jason work with were recognised by The Football League as national Community Club of the Year in 2012 (Rotherham United) and 2013 (Charlton Athletic). Both organisations are leaders in the concept of using 'the Power of Football to make a difference' and have helped to change lives in the often deprived communities in which they operate.
The range of social issues that the two trusts tackle is truly staggering, from knife and gang crime to community integration, and illustrates perfectly why local and national agencies are so keen to partner with The Football League Trust and its network of 72 locally based charities to engage with people locally - particularly young people.
For Jason Morgan, the award of the MBE topped off an unforgettable 2013. In February, Charlton Athletic Community Trust celebrated 20 years of its work in the community with a star-studded event at the o2 arena in London.
The following month the club was named Community Club of the Year at The Football League Awards. For the man who started it all off with a tracksuit and a bag of balls in 1992, and now oversees an organisation with 150 staff working with 10,000 young people every week, the MBE was a richly deserved accolade.
When he first learnt of the MBE in November but was told he was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement in January, the modest Morgan was convinced it was a 'wind up'.
Once the realisation hit him that it was for real, Jason said: "I'm personally honoured but acknowledge and thank so many people, staff and colleagues for their hard work and commitment that makes the Charlton Athletic Community Trust the success it is.
"It has been an amazing 20 years and I am lucky and proud to work for a great charity at a great family club like Charlton."
Zanib Rasool joined Rotherham United Community Sports Trust in 2008, but had been involved in football in the community work since 2002. Whilst working with a local multi-cultural centre, Zanib secured some funding for BME groups to play sport and made the link with Rotherham United.
Zanib takes up the story: "Young people I worked with were so excited at the prospect of going to Millmoor for the first time even though many lived on the doorstep of the football club. They played every week on a Tuesday and a Thursday and each week the numbers increased even after the initial promotion, they kept coming.
"We have come a long way since then and deliver to over 100 BME young people a week, have an excellent cohesion team who have set up 'United 4 Communities' recently to enable BME players to move from grassroots football participation in community setting to a club and play weekly matches."
Zanib's role at Rotherham United helped propel the club to The Football League's Community Club of the Year Award in 2012, the only time the award has been won by club outside the South East since its inception. Zanib describes that as one of her 'greatest achievements' since being involved, fantastic recognition for the hard work of a lot of people.
And in 2014, the MBE, a personal award for her dedicated work in Rotherham, particularly around community cohesion and integration, a reward that made Zanib very proud.
"I was delighted, as I know a lot of people in my town of Rotherham do a lot work especially in the voluntary community sector. Lots of people contribute to my work, from the fantastic and committed staff I work with every day here at trust, so many partners, and funders, to our elected members... I know as a woman it's much harder for your work to be recognised in the field I work in."
On hearing of the awards in early January, Mike Evans, General Manager of The Football League Trust said: "It is absolutely fantastic news that Zanib and Jason have been awarded MBE's for their outstanding work in their communities.
"They are both outstanding individuals working for amazing charities that The Football League Trust is very proud to support. The fact that this work is recognised at the highest level can only inspire us all to drive things forward.
"Zanib and Jason have both been quick to acknowledge the support of others in receiving these honours, which is right and proper, but they are both real leaders in our field of work and great role models for other clubs to learn from. We hope to work with them for many years to come."
The shortlist for the Community Club of the Year for 2014 will be confirmed week commencing 27th January, with the winner announced at The Football League Awards at The Brewery, London on 16th March.