All 72 EFL Clubs have been recognised for their collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic by being named as the recipients of the YouGov Community Project of the Year Award at the 2021 EFL Community Awards.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, shutting down all aspects of society, including bringing football to a halt en masse for the first time since the Second World War, clubs came together as a force for good and were among the first to respond to the needs of local communities across England and Wales.
Clubs and their Club Community Organisations (CCOs) adapted their outreach programmes in line with Government guidance and restrictions, to ensure the safe continuation of their incredible work. It is work which has provided a lifeline for so many, helping to keep people healthy, active and connected since the outbreak of coronavirus.
Close to home, it is Reading FC Community Trust that have been leading the way for the club as a whole.
Right at the start of the outbreak in March 2020, our Community Trust helped to coordinate a donation of over 100kg fruit and vegetables to our local Salvation Army from our Madejski Stadium conference centre, which would have otherwise gone to waste when our doors first closed for lockdown.
The following month, Wokingham Food Bank benefitted as the Trust helped to provide food parcels. Then they set up online resources for body and mind – community coach Mark Edwards put together some ‘Fit Fans’ interval training sessions to follow from home, while an Educational Hub was set up for kids who found themselves away from school.
During these strange days, mental health was high on the agenda – and rather than meeting in the Players’ Lounge at the club, our Talking Tactics participants have instead been meeting in the cybersphere! Former Royals Scott Davies and Noel Hunt have each kindly joined the sessions, too.
And just last month, we were able to announce that plans are underway to reopen our Dementia Café, in partnership with Age UK Berkshire – a chance for dementia-suffers to connect at the home of the Royals and to chat about all things Reading Football Club and relive our former glories.
Just some of the ways that our club has been able to make an impact, off the pitch.
From Cardiff to Carlisle and Bristol to Blackpool, football clubs and their CCOs continued to provide vital support to some of the country’s most vulnerable people. Our club is just one of many that has been aiming to make a positive impact on the lives of those on their doorstep.
This award showcases the collective and individual responses made to the challenges of the pandemic and demonstrates the fantastic work the network has done in responding to the needs of their communities during what has been an incredibly difficult period for everyone.