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Football comes together in the face of COVID-19

In the face of pressures on local communities brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with people unable to work or feed their families, and with vital community lifelines lost, football – both through its clubs and supporter groups – has stepped into the breach. 

As people across the country face an uncertain time, the response from businesses and individuals across the UK has largely been heartwarming, and football as an industry is no different.

Fan groups

As ever, football fans are showing their best sides in times of crisis and proving the value of community within their fanbase. Quite apart from operating a number of the foodbanks to which clubs have donated, and answering the calls for volunteers mentioned below, fangroups are helping out where they can.

The Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association have made donations to two local foodbanks, provided support to their elderly members and offered free membership from next season to all NHS staff among other things.

Leeds United Supporters’ Trust have helped raise more than £10,000 for their local foodbank, while the Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust have helped raise a similar amount for the Robin Hood Fund in Nottingham.

Leyton Orient have been helping pay the wages of their own club staff, with two donations of £20,000 to the club.

Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly have teamed up with Morrisons and local taxi firms to ensure food deliveries are made to vulnerable local people, while Sunderland’s Red and White Army have raised cash and food donations, and supplied volunteers to transport and make up food packages at the Sunderland foodbank.

MUFC Fans Foodbank and MCFC Fans Foodbank Support have raised almost £9,000 for their joint intiative which is backed by Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, 1894 Group and Manchester City Official Supporters Club. They say they have been “overwhelmed by the generosity from our sister organisations in Merseyside” as Fans Supporting Foodbanks pledged £3,000 to the Manchester fund.

At Lincoln City a range of fangroups (617 Squadron, Red Imps Community Trust and Vital Lincoln) have all raised hundreds of pounds for the Sincil Foodbank, while at West Ham United both the West Ham United Independent Supporters’ Association and Hammers United launched the ‘Help a Hammer’ initiative.

Clarets Supporting Foodbanks have also been active during the season and they’re exploring ways they can help the local community during this lockdown.

Clubs

Chelsea were one of the first clubs to act – offering up spaces in their hotel to NHS staff working on the front line. Gary Neville has done likewise with his two hotels in Manchester. Watford sprang into action launching the ‘Hornets at Home’ initiative, to protect vulnerable fans by putting them in touch with volunteers.

Liverpool donated £40,000 to Fans Supporting Foodbanks, as with the cessation of football they will see a significant drop in matchday donations that take place around Anfield every other week. Liverpool players and the club’s foundation matched that donation with another £40,000, and not to be outdone by their Merseyside rivals Everton donated over 600kg of food to local foodbanks.

Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton and Aston Villa similarly donated food to local shelters and soup kitchens. Both of Manchester’s Premier League clubs donated £50,000 apiece to local foodbank initiatives.

But it’s not just the Premier League clubs doing their bit – Port Vale are using their kitchens to provide meals to vulnerable local people – “the right thing to do” in the words of club owner Carol Shanahan – while Accrington Stanley were one of the first clubs to move to protect their fanbase by offering unconditional refunds to season ticket holders who did not wish to or were unable to continue attending fixtures.

Tranmere Rovers have teamed up with local chairty Helplink, forming a team of more than 250 volunteers to help in the community.

And even in non-league clubs are doing what they can – Stockport County have donated £75,000 to their local NHS, Bromley continue to operate their local foodbank, Billericay Town have raised funds to support vulnerable local people and Maidenhead have launched a helpline and community care initiative. Find out more about all those, and more, here.

  • If you know of a club or fan group who have been giving their time to fundraise, donate or otherwise help the effort in your local community, email us with details (preferably with a link), and we’ll update our story. 

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