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European football stands united against COVID-19 crisis: England

  • English FA launches ‘Football’s staying home’ campaign
  • Captains lead Premier League teams into #PlayersTogether partnership with National Health Service Charities Together
  • English Football League uses relief fund to help clubs facing cashflow problems
  • Numerous club initiatives to help local communities

A highlight from the #FootballsStayingHomeCup
A highlight from the #FootballsStayingHomeCup ©FA

With the help of past and present England players, as well as experts from St. George’s Park, the English Football Association’s ‘Football’s staying home’ campaign is using football to help fans cope with staying at home – from providing tips on staying safe and healthy to doing football activities to keep bodies and minds active.

The whole football community – fans, players, parents, teams, leagues and county FAs – can support the campaign by creating their own content and using #FootballsStayingHome. The best posts are featured in an online hub at TheFA.com/FootballsStayingHome.

As part of the campaign, members of England’s men’s, women’s and Under-21 national squads are putting their FIFA 20 skills to the test by competing from their own homes in the inaugural edition of the #FootballsStayingHome Cup. Online spectators are encouraged to donate to the National Emergencies Trust, which is channelling funds to a network of 50 community foundations across the UK helping people in need.

Marcus Rashford is one of the players involved
Marcus Rashford is one of the players involved©Getty Images

The list of England internationals taking part includes Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Callum Wilson, James Maddison, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham. Lionesses’ trio Lucy Bronze, Jordan Nobbs and Ellie Roebuck are also in the starting line-ups, as are Under-21 players Reiss Nelson, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons, Eddie Nketiah and Ryan Sessegnon.

#PlayersTogether

In a voluntary initiative, Premier League players have launched #PlayersTogether, a fundraising partnership with National Health Service Charities Together (NHSCT) to support the UK’s National Health Service. Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, Watford’s Troy Deeney and West Ham’s Mark Noble will help administer the funds.

In a joint statement, the players said: “The contributions that this initiative will generate will help NHSCT quickly grant funds to the front line to support in a number of ways, including to help enhance the well-being of NHS staff, volunteers and patients impacted by COVID-19.”

English Football League

The English Football League (EFL) has agreed to release a £50 million short-term relief fund to help clubs facing cashflow problems. The fund includes the early release of award payments and an interest-free loan facility. Under the terms of the relief fund:

  • Championship (second-tier) clubs have received their remaining £800,000 award payment from the Premier League. They can also apply for a £584,000 interest-free loan.
  • League One clubs: equivalent figures are £250,000 and £183,000.
  • League Two clubs: equivalent figures are £164,000 and £120,000.

EFL Futures, a scheme that rewards clubs for giving opportunities to home-grown youth players, will distribute an additional £1 million on a pro rata basis.

From the Premier League to League Two, clubs have rallied behind the government’s call to action Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save lives.

Brighton and Hove Albion has started a campaign to collect 100,000 free tickets for health workers across the United Kingdom in recognition of their frontline role in fighting COVID-19. Fellow south-coast club Bournemouth has already agreed to add its own tickets to Brighton’s offer of 1,000. Players and staff from both of these clubs are also making supportive calls to their elderly, vulnerable fans.

Plymouth Argyle's Home Park stadium
Plymouth Argyle's Home Park stadium©FA

Following a request from the local National Health Service (NHS) Trust, League Two club Plymouth Argyle has handed over the use of a new grandstand at their Home Park stadium to ease the pressure on Devon’s primary hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Home Park’s changing rooms, boardroom and conference hall – only opened in December 2019 – are now fitted out to provide routine medical services. The NHS is also set to use Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium to train doctors and nurses, while Watford’s Vicarage Road stadium will also be adapted to serve as an annex to the nearby Watford General Hospital.

Former players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are using their two co-owned hotels in Manchester – Hotel Football and the Stock Exchange – to host NHS workers unable to return home to see their families; Chelsea has done the same with its Millennium hotel at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal has made a number of vehicles and drivers available to local NHS mental health workers, so they can continue delivering vital services to the community; the north London club has also donated £100,000 to local charities, which rely on public donations to fund their activities. Wolverhampton Wanderers and its ownership group Fosun have donated thousands of items of protective equipment, including clothing and masks, to healthcare teams working in the city's hospital.

Appeals to help elderly and vulnerable people

Stevenage of League Two has launched a hotline signposting services for the over-70s, and is enlisting its players and fans to deliver hot food. “We are no longer a football club at present. We are turning the club into a community careline,” said the club’s chief executive, Alex Tunbridge.

Premier League leaders Liverpool have launched the LFC Emergency Foodbank Appeal, inviting fans to make a charitable donation to the Trussell Trust Foodbank network via the Facebook pages for LFC and the LFC Foundation, its charitable arm. All proceeds will provide emergency assistance to families and vulnerable people living in food poverty. Liverpool had previously donated £40,000 to Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSF). Players and the LFC Foundation have committed £10,000 per game for the final four home fixtures of the season to cover the impact of lost matchday collections, with Jordan Henderson coordinating donations from the Liverpool squad.

Manchester City and Manchester United are also helping the Trussell Trust , each donating £50,000 to support the trust’s 1,200 food banks in Greater Manchester.

Everton’s Blue Family campaign has raised £50,000 to cover critical community services including:

  • delivery of food parcels
  • financial assistance to buy prescriptions
  • mobile phone credit for people living alone
  • support for increased fuel bills and mental health advice

Carlo Ancelotti is lending his support
Carlo Ancelotti is lending his support©AFP/Getty Images

Trained staff have also sent exercise and mindfulness videos to vulnerable supporters, while the Everton Fan Centre has made thousands of calls to elderly and isolated people to maintain contact. The club’s Italian coach, Carlo Ancelotti, personally called a fan with motor neurone disease.

Following the postponement of Aston Villa’s home match against Chelsea in March, the Aston Villa Foundation distributed almost 1,000 packed lunches intended for matchday staff to local organisations and accommodation units caring for Birmingham’s homeless community. Similarly, Newcastle United donated 1,200 pies to a city foodbank after their St James’ Park fixture against Sheffield United was postponed.

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