Manchester United, Liverpool FC and Southampton FC are amongst a host of football clubs who are helping their local communities, following a year unlike any other seen before in the 21st century.
For the sports industry, the coronavirus crisis has thrown a number of different challenges that have had to be tackled in order to secure the future of the games that we love.
Football is commonly known amongst fans and even those outside of it, as the wealthiest sport in the UK, which naturally draws attention to itself during a time where many are feeling the financial impact that the global pandemic has brought.
At the heart of their communities, a large number of football clubs are kickstarting a range of initiatives heading into the Christmas period, which for some, can prove to be a testing time.
Community initiatives for some of these clubs at Christmas are by no means a first in 2020, but this year, perhaps more than any other, their significance will be felt deeper than those that came before it.
The Manchester United Foundation, Manchester United FC and FareShare Greater Manchester are joining forces to provide 80,000 meals to families from local communities as part of the Foundation’s Santa’s Red Helpers Christmas appeal.
Collette Roche, chief operating officer for Manchester United, said: “2020 has been a really challenging year for so many across the country. The issue of food poverty has been significant, worsened by the Covid-19 crisis and aggravated further during the holidays when many children cannot get access to free school meals.
“Many have rallied to this particular cause and we are proud to be able to play our part. We’ve scaled up our partnership with the Foundation and with FareShare GM, bringing our resources together, to produce 80,000 meals over the festive period. We thank all the fans and staff who have contributed to this important project.”
Liverpool FC has teamed up with Cadbury to support local residents in Liverpool as part of its Secret Santa campaign. Alongside Red Neighbours and LFC Foundation, Cadbury will be raising awareness for the Trussell Trust - and providing little bit of extra magic for more than 150,000 people supported by its network of foodbanks - by adding a chocolate treat to food parcels this Christmas. Red Neighbours and LFC Foundation have partnered with Cadbury to help promote the initiative and to provide an additional donation to the North Liverpool and South Liverpool Foodbanks.
Southampton FC's initiative differed from that of Manchester United's and Liverpool's by offering a donation of toys valuing £10,000 to Southampton City Council’s annual toy appeal as part of the club’s commitment to supporting the local community through the Saints As One initiative.
Southampton Football Club’s Chief Commercial Officer, David Thomas, said: “As a club, we’re committed to supporting our local community and are proud to be able to support Southampton City Council’s toy appeal, which has helped so many young people already.
“It’s important to us that we help make a difference to the lives of people in the city, particularly at a time of year that can be challenging for many, and we hope that our donation can help spread some festive joy for those most in need of it.”
For any football club to offer help in the local community is commendable, however, clubs outside of the Premier League have also been quick to help out where they can, something that proves to be even more impressive during a time where it has been vocalised so clearly the financial difficulties they face.
Derby County, as part of their 'Stay Safe. Stay Fit. Stay Connected’ initiative, are looking to provide a 'thank you' gift box for 250 fans who have done something remarkable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
League One side Blackpool FC are looking to raise money for Primary School children who would not usually be able to open a present on Christmas day.
Away from charitable donations, National League side Barnet FC's home stadium, The Hive London, has become one of the first NHS Vaccination Centres in the UK and the first football stadium to offer the vaccine to its community.
2020 has been a challenging year for many and that is likely to continue into the new year but football clubs are doing their part to help out this Christmas and offer some respite to those who need it most, at a time of the year where everyone deserves to be merry.
Author: Jake Wilkin