Clubs and their players have donated time and resources to their local communities as part of football's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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From Arsenal to Wolfsburg, all eight clubs remaining in the UEFA Women's Champions League launched countless initiatives to support fans and communities during football’s long period of inactivity.
Activities included raising funds to purchase life-saving medical equipment, delivering food to the elderly and vulnerable or using the sport’s enormous reach to deliver vital health messages.
“Football really can be an important vehicle for good,” says UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin. “These examples demonstrate that.”
The London team made an initial £150,000 donation to local charities and organisations tackling the COVID-19 crisis, while its community cars and staff were made available to help transport mental health workers and national health service staff.
The Arsenal Foundation and Arsenal in the Community have distributed over 210,000 meals to those most in need, while the Arsenal Stadium was transformed into a temporary hub for the local area’s food distribution centre. Bespoke digital educational resources were also produced to aid young people with home schooling and 250 laptops were donated to local schoolchildren to help tackle the issue of digital poverty.
Managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: "Arsenal Football Club exists to make our fans proud and create a sense of community for people in Islington, across the UK and around the world. During these uncertain and unprecedented times, we will endeavour to ensure that remains the case."
Club Atlético de Madrid
Midfielder Silvia Meseguer volunteered to help in a Madrid hospital after recently qualifying as a doctor. Among many other contributions to the local community, the capital club donated 20,000 masks in May. The masks were handed over by the Atlético Madrid Foundation to the San Blas-Canillejas District, home to the club’s stadium, for use by local residents. The foundation had previously made a donation to Madrid’s health service while the club is running another donation scheme for its members and players.
The Catalan outfit teamed up with the Red Cross to provide home support to the elderly – members over the age of 80 were contacted in order to help them with any tasks they needed doing and keep an eye on their well-being.
The Barça Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation also collaborated by supporting food grants for at-risk families, aid for the homeless, psychological counselling for the elderly, and awareness campaigns about the pandemic.
Throughout the lockdown, the #CulersAtHome campaign gave daily updates on exercises, recipes, book and film recommendations, and activities for kids.
FC Bayern München
Bayern produced branded face masks with proceeds going to ‘WeKickCorona’, an initiative set up by the club’s players whose donations – which run into millions of euros – have been helping social and charitable organisations from all areas of society during the pandemic.
The club and its fans also marked their solidarity with amateur football and grassroots sport. Many supporters turned down refunds for match tickets and donated the corresponding amount to FC Bayern Hilfe eV. This money benefits the 18 clubs of the Bayern Regionalliga and the Bavarian State Sports Association BLSV. Each regional league receives €20,000 and the BLSV €100,000.
As an example of many local outreach initiatives, Bayern also donated traditional Sachertorten to around 80 Munich care homes, with each one receiving ten cakes.
Glasgow City FC
Forward Hayley Sinclair is a care worker who continues to play a part in the fight against the pandemic while midfielder Jo Love works for Glasgow Scientific Services and was in a team that turned their expertise to making hand sanitiser for front-line staff. Players used the club’s official social media channels to offer tips on coping through lockdown, especially during mental health awareness week in May, and coach Scott Booth conducted video calls with fans.
First-team players also held group video calls with all 11 academy teams to keep spirits high while former stars Rachel Corsie and Erin Cuthbert did video Q&As with academy players. The club also carried out a number of 'Watch Parties' showing classic matches from the past.
A club statement said: "The pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone and it remains so today. Mental health is hugely important to us as a club, and we worked hard to do what we could to keep our players of all ages engaged and keep our supporters motivated and in good spirits without being able to watch the team they love. Football brings people together and we certainly tried our best to keep this unity during these difficult times."
The OL Féminin players played a big hand in supporting the response from the Olympique Lyonnais Foundation. Beyond their participation in fundraising to help hospitals and charitable associations, they also gave time to relay awareness messages to supporters, and lift the spirits of children who were going through particularly difficult times.
Some of their standout contributions were the virtual visits and recorded videos for hospitalised children. They also participated in an eSport tournament with young people around Lyon to encourage them to stay home and remind them of the importance of social distancing.
"It was natural for the club to act in an immediately substantial way when the health crisis started," said joint-president of the OL Foundation and former top player Camille Abily. "We used all our mechanisms to support those in the field: hospitals, medical research and social assistance associations. The local links we had already established, helped us to move quickly and to contribute widely, enabling us to help even more of those in need."
Paris Saint-Germain FC
In March, Paris made a €100,000 donation to the Secours Populaire charity. The money was put towards aid and support for children, the elderly and the homeless who have been affected by COVID. Other uses included supporting doctors working in the field and helping to train volunteers.
In April, PSG funded the purchase of medical material (masks, gloves, coats) for ACF (Action Against Hunger) to help them continue screening and treating malnourished children around the world.
In May, through a collaboration between the PSG Foundation and the Women's Foundation, kits were delivered to domestically abused women who were being safeguarded. This strengthened the relationship with the Women's Foundation, and PSG went further, directly funding accommodation, logistics, the security of vulnerable women and their children, and the development of a strong programme to cater for all affected children in three different locations in Paris and its suburbs. The PSG Foundation programme took care of 148 women and children in need of help and care.
Wolfsburg’s #wirhelfen (we help) campaign gave much-needed support to the club’s elderly members and season-ticket holders. Players from the men’s and women’s first teams, including Robin Knoche, Felix Klaus, Svenja Huth and Sara Doorsoun, personally called 75 fans. Other staff ran errands, went shopping or picked up prescriptions and medication. “In every single call I noticed just how much it meant to people to receive a call asking how they were doing and whether they needed any help,” said Olympic gold medal winner Huth.
To help children and parents fight off boredom during the lockdown, players also personally delivered gift bags to the 3,500 members of Wolfsburg’s fan club. “It was really great to see the kids’ reactions, and also those of their parents,” said defender Noelle Maritz. “They were so happy to receive a small present. It was really nice to be part of this initiative and to be able to bring joy to the children.”
Wolfsburg staff also raised €30,000 through voluntary donations and, early on in the crisis, the club provided 100,000 much-needed surgical masks to the city’s front-line medical and social institutions. “The wearing of masks is an important step in the fight against the virus, and we’re glad that we could contribute in this way,” said Wolfsburg’s managing director Michael Meeske.