As part of the fifth EFL Day of Action, Crewe Alexandra defender Nathan Wood headed down to the Alexandra Soccer Centre as a special guest to surprise the youngsters during their Little Lions session.
Today, the English Football League (EFL) will mark its fifth Day of Action, where all 72 Clubs from its three divisions come together to demonstrate the impact that football has in positively changing people’s lives.
Throughout the Day of Action, Club players and managers will join participants in a range of community activities including food bank deliveries, projects to tackle loneliness and mental health, support programmes for refugees and asylum seekers, initiatives for children living in poverty, and disability sports sessions.
Despite the financial and logistical challenges that EFL Clubs have faced during the last 12 months, community work has remained at the heart of football, with Clubs and Club Community Organisations (CCOs) continuing to provide vital support to some of the most vulnerable people living in England and Wales.
The importance of football Clubs to their local communities has never been clearer than in the last year, with millions of people across the nation relying on their local Club for food donations, mental health and wellbeing support and even transport to and from Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites.
Since March 2020, EFL Clubs have collectively distributed over 1.4 million food parcels, more than 179,000 items of PPE, 22,000 prescriptions and donated over 2,100 laptops and tablets to people facing technology poverty. Club staff and their players have had in excess of 527,000 outgoing and incoming conversations with fans and vulnerable people, and over 600 job opportunities are being delivered for young unemployed people.
There is a real need for Clubs to bounce back from the financial implications of the pandemic in order to sustain the delivery of these life-changing community programmes.
Using the power of football, the EFL is able to engage some of the most vulnerable members of society to address important issues in the areas of equalities, diversity and inclusion, education, employment and health and wellbeing. Every season, EFL Clubs and CCOs provide more than half a million hours of group activity and over 40 million hours of participation.
During the Day of Action, players and managers from Clubs in the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two will join staff and participants from their local areas to showcase some of the most impactful projects, including:
Lincoln City’s Alex Palmer will be joined by teammates at a local garden area which is in need of regenerating. Once completed, the project will provide more green space for the local community to use on a daily basis.
Norwich City’s Tim Krul will make a surprise appearance to children attending the Club’s NHS Superhero Soccer Schools which have been set up for children of NHS workers at three local hospitals as a thank you. This project has been funded through £200,000 raised by players and coaching staff to help with the Covid-19 support effort. Over 300 children will benefit from this activity.
Middlesbrough will be delivering its Football Welcomes activity designed to create welcoming communities for refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the local area.
Millwall Football Club’s LGBT team wilk take part in a special coaching session hosted by Club Legend, Paul Robinson at The Den.
Preston North End is helping to bring its multi-cultural community together by educating locals about the importance of the festival of Ramadan and supporting those fasting with dates, fresh fruit and water.
Tranmere Rovers will see members of the First-Team squad pay ‘garden gate’ visits to isolated members of the local community to help cheer them up and check-in on their general wellbeing.
Portsmouth will be using its purpose-built learning facility the ‘Blue’s Kitchen’ to deliver its Holiday Cook-a-long course, educating young children about the importance of healthy eating and basics for home cooking.
Rick Parry, Chair of the EFL, said: “The way that our Clubs and CCOs have adapted to deal with the challenges of the past year is remarkable, responding to the growing needs of their communities affected by the pandemic while also continuing to deliver critical life-changing programmes in towns and cities across England and Wales to people who need it most.
“The EFL Day of Action gives us a platform to step back and take the time to acknowledge the hard work that our Clubs are doing in their communities every day of the year.
“Community work delivered by football Clubs is without a doubt one of the key mechanisms in helping to address important societal issues with the aim of building stronger, healthier, active, more cohesive communities.
“It’s great to see all 72 EFL Clubs, players, managers, staff and participants come together to highlight the power of football in uniting people and working for the greater good.”
In addition to the Day of Action, the EFL can also reveal the regional winners of this season’s EFL Your Move Community Club of the Year and the divisional winners of the PFA Community Players of the Season. The overall winners will be announced at the EFL Awards on Thursday 29 April.
Your Move EFL Community Club of the Year
1. North East and Yorkshire: Sunderland AFC
2. North West: Blackburn Rovers
3. Midlands: Port Vale
4. South East and East: Portsmouth
5. South West and Wales: Bristol Rovers
6. London: Watford
PFA Community Players of the Season
1. Championship: Will Vaulks, Cardiff City
2. League One: Alex Rodman, Bristol Rovers
3. League Two: Matty Dolan, Newport County AFC