Richard’s story: “Not only has he enhanced his football skills, he’s formed new friendships and his self-esteem has improved.”

Despite the tribal nature of being a fan, football is a universal language and across the country people are enjoying and benefitting from programmes run by their local football Club despite being a loyal fan of another Club.

Ahead of the Carabao Cup final, we take a look at some inspirational stories of City and Villa fans whose lives have been changed by their local EFL Clubs.

Richard’s story 

As Aston Villa season ticket holder Steve Hammond reflects on the opportunities his son Richard has explored through Shrewsbury Town in the Community’s ShrewsAbility, his gratefulness and delight at his son’s achievements are substantial.

Richard is a boyhood Villa fan and has been a regular ShrewsAbility member since the sessions first launched in 2016.

Through the Every Player Counts programme funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust, the ShrewsAbility Down’s syndrome football scheme creates a multi-tier learning environment that improves the participants’ overall physical, social and emotional health.

Talking about his son’s involvement in the ShrewsAbility sessions, Steve said:

“Apart from holidays, Richard hasn’t missed one ShrewsAbility session at Shrewsbury Town in the Community since they began. He thoroughly enjoys it.

“Before taking part, Richard struggled to trap or strike a ball properly. It’s amazing to see the difference and how much he has developed, he’s so comfortable at doing these things now and has built his intelligence of the game.

“I feel so happy and grateful to see my son enjoy playing football every week just like I did when I was younger.

“Not only has he enhanced his football skills, he’s also formed new friendships and his self-esteem has improved.

“He’s like an older brother or father figure to the rest of the group, he enjoys helping the younger ones and the new people that come in, helping them to score goals.”

ShrewsAbility provides more opportunities for people to play football in a comfortable and competitive environment.

Steve added: “These sessions make you look at what everyone is able to do and not what they can’t – you see people’s abilities, not their disability.”

Apart from football, Richard is also an avid gymnast and swimmer and in 2011 he represented Team GB at the Special Olympics in Athens, winning two Silver Medals and one Bronze Medal in artistic gymnastics.

Since ShrewsAbility launched, the session has had an aggregate attendance of 464 participants across all disability sessions.

95% of participants have stated that there has been an improvement in their mental wellbeing since attending the sessions.

Steve concludes: “Football is leading the way with inclusion and it’s fantastic to see Clubs doing all they can to get as many people involved in playing the game.”


David finds new lease of life attending Blackpool FC Community Trust programmes

Despite the tribal nature of being a fan, football is a universal language and across the country people are enjoying and benefitting from programmes run by their local football Club despite being a loyal fan of another Club.

Ahead of the Carabao Cup final, we take a look at some inspirational stories of City and Villa fans whose lives have been changed by their local EFL Clubs.

David’s story 


David Roberts, a lifelong Manchester City fan, has found a new lease of life attending Blackpool FC Community Trust programmes after struggling with the lifestyle changes of retirement.

The 61 year-old, who was born in Manchester but moved to Blackpool when he was six years old, is one of the founding members of Manchester City’s Blackpool and Fylde Supporters Club (established in 1976).

After retiring last year, David struggled with the change of routine and started having panic attacks. He knew he needed to find a new hobby and purpose.

As a keen football fan, Walking Football sessions at the Club Community Organisation most local to him – Blackpool FC Community Trust – caught his eye.

He said: “I felt a massive sense of emptiness after I retired. I’ve had mental health issues previously in my life, but always found ways to battle on and keep going.

“The change in routine affected me and I started getting panic attacks, so something had to change.

“Then I came across the Blackpool FC Community Trust Walking Football team.”

After attending Walking Football with the Seasiders for the past year, David credits the team for giving him a great boost of confidence and helping him to feel young again.

He added: “I hadn’t played football in 15 years, so it has been fantastic to get back into it.

“The camaraderie of the team is brilliant, everyone mixes together with people aged 50-70. It’s been a massive boost to my morale and I feel younger mentally.

“It gives me something to look forward to now every single week.”

His involvement with the Walking Football team also developed his interest in other programmes at the Trust such as Sporting Memories and a Stress Control course.

Talking about his experience on the Stress Control course, he said:

“It was very interesting getting an overview of how you can do things to help yourself to manage stress. The course also included exercise, which has massive benefits – I found it really useful and all the other participants did as well.

“All in all, the programmes at Blackpool FC Community Trust have helped me so much. I may not be a Blackpool fan, but the commonality of football itself is so powerful and the social side of the sport has had a massive impact on my life.”


Sam’s story: Tacking discrimination in football with Charlton Invicta

Despite the tribal nature of being a fan, football is a universal language and across the country people are enjoying and benefitting from programmes run by their local football Club despite being a loyal fan of another Club.

Ahead of the Carabao Cup final, we take a look at some inspirational stories of City and Villa fans whose lives have been changed by their local EFL Clubs.

Sam’s Story

Boyhood Aston Villa fan Sam Timms has played a significant role in tackling discrimination in football, through his involvement in setting up LGBT team Charlton Invicta, formally affiliated to Charlton Athletic Community Trust.

“Football is a massive part of my life. I have always been attached to it and played the game from a young age at grassroots level.” says Sam.

“There came a point in my life in my early teens where I was worried I wouldn’t be able to play football when I started to question my own sexual orientation. I became worried about my relationship with my Dad and I was concerned he wouldn’t speak to me – it was a difficult time and I stopped playing the game for quite some time.”

Eventually, Sam got back into playing football in his home town in Birmingham and with what seems like fate, met his partner, Gary [player-manager at Charlton Invicta] at a football tournament in London.

“I met Gary at a football tournament in London when we played on opposite teams.

“I eventually moved to Kent and worked with Gary in 2016 to approach Charlton Athletic Community Trust to support our LGBT football team.”

The result was the birth of ‘Charlton Invicta’, formally affiliated with the Club’s Community Organisation taking Charlton’s name and playing home games at their training ground. They are the first LGBT-friendly team to have such an arrangement.

This season, Charlton Invicta has signed over 32 members, with just over half of those players identified as LGBT and are the only team in the country to have two transgender players.

The team has also most recently received the Grassroots Football Award at the Football v Homophobia Awards.

“It was a massive step for football, I’m so proud of the success. If you asked me back then [in 2016] about Charlton Invicta being this successful, I would never have believed it.

“The drive behind all of this personally for me is that I don’t want to look at my younger self and have anybody go through that – nobody should feel inadequate about playing football.”

Sam was also the Founder and is currently the Chair at Villa and Proud, Aston Villa’s official LGBT Supporters Group which formed in 2018.

His involvement with Villa and Proud has led the Supporters Group to become the ‘fastest growing LGBT supporters group in the country’, with 228 members signed up and 80+ of those identifying as LGBT.

To find out more about Charlton Invicta visit their Facebook page: 

Brentford FC and its Community Sports Trust host mental health evening for fans at Griffin Park

Brentford FC and its Community Sports Trust hosted a special screening of the documentary “Steve” to Brentford fans and local community groups at Griffin Park on Monday.

The film, which documents how one man lost his friend Steve to suicide, highlighted the difficulties many men face in discussing their mental health and how playing sport can be instrumental in helping men overcome mental health conditions. The screening coincided with the Duke of Cambridge’s Head’s Up campaign that raises awareness of mental health and encourages more open conversations.

Ben, who created the film after he lost his friend Steve to suicide, has one simple aim: to help men help themselves.

He said: “76% of suicides are male. In fact, as a man under 45 the thing most likely to kill me, is me: we need to change this and try to prevent mental ill health.”

“We seem to know how to look after our physical health – but we don’t seem to know about our mental health. I hope this event will get men talking and to realise how men need to look after their mental fitness and, if necessary, join a talk club to prevent the next Steve.”

Ben hosted a Q&A at Griffin Park after the screening finished and encouraged attendees to have open discussions about their mental health. Brentford FC and its Community Sports Trust used the evening to discuss with fans the possibility of a “Brentford Talking Club” that would provide a safe hub for male fans to discuss any mental health conditions.

Brentford fan Joe Stapleton found the documentary an eye-opening experience, he said:

“The event really opened my eyes to the struggles that so many of us experience and how important it is to talk and seek help.

“I will be signing up to Brentford’s Talking Club to help with my own personal mental fitness, but also to learn and help others with theirs.”

Brentford FC Community Sports Trust has already been recognised for its community work surrounding mental health. In partnership with West London NHS Trust, it has been running its Hounslow Hawks FC programme for 11 years – offering local residents free football sessions as a form of therapy. Brentford FC are also working closely with the EFL’s charity partner Mind to promote mental health at Brentford games.

Graham Goodden, Communities Engagement Manager at Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, believes that this event will not only promote mental health awareness but mental health action. He said:

“It was great to see so many people attend the screening to raise awareness of this vitally important subject.

“This screening signalled the first step in changing perceptions of men’s mental health. However, raising awareness is simply not enough and that is why we are keen to establish talking men’s clubs so that Brentford fans have a safe space to talk.”

For more information about the Trust’s mental health initiatives please contact Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust at 

“The change that I have witnessed as a parent has been astounding”

Jack, 18, is a young wheel chair user and by his own admission would struggle in social settings, however thanks to NCS he has a new found confidence.

His mum Bernie Jones from Middlesbrough has thanked MFC Foundation (Middlesbrough Football Club) and NCS (National Citizen Service) for giving her son, Jack, ‘a new sense of purpose’ and believes he has come on ‘leaps and bounds as a young man’ since doing NCS in 2019.

NCS is a 3-4 week programme in summer that provides young people aged 16-17 the chance to take on new challenges, experience exciting activities, and make long-lasting friendships and support young people’s transition to adulthood.

Jack, 18, is a wheelchair user which initially gave Bernie some doubt to Jack taking part in NCS;

“As a parent I most definitely had my reservations about Jack being a part of the NCS programme but the support from the MFC Foundation team was unbelievable. They catered to his every individual need and made the programme accessible for Jack. The change that I have witnessed as a parent has been astounding and anyone who is considering the programme then please don’t let this opportunity pass you by. NCS essentially has given Jack a new sense of purpose and as a young man he has come on leaps and bounds.”

Jack admits that before NCS he would struggle in social settings;

“The staff supported me in finding methods to support my additional needs. This supported me with making new friends and allowed me to challenge myself to try new things.

I’ve definitely got better at working in a team and I love the opportunity to be involved in discussions. But, most of all NCS allowed me to develop my self-confidence and make new friends. I realised that I could do just as much as other people if not more, and I’m so pleased that the NCS team at MFC Foundation helped me to achieve this.”

During Jack’s experience on NCS, he and his team supported a number of charities such as raising money for the local care home Hillcare, revamping the Teesside Nautical Studies centre and raising money for a local disability society which Jack is involved with. Jack said;

“My best moments on NCS were during week 4 doing our social action delivery. Supporting the local community and raising funds for a number of local charities which were quite personal for us as a team, really provided a highlight for me.”

Jack encompasses everything that NCS sets out to achieve for young people, it provides new opportunities, promotes and encourages social independence, gain new friends and build self-confidence.

Kelly Daley, NCS Manager at MFC Foundation supported Jack through his NCS journey said;

“Jack is an inspiring young man who wanted to be involved with all aspects of the NCS programme. His enthusiasm and zest for getting the job done was a pleasure to witness.  His development as a young man was significant from the beginning of the programme right through until graduation.”

Jack’s physical constraints did not prevent him from playing an instrumental role within the planning of the team’s social action project.

Jack is now a key member of MFC Foundation’s Youth boards where he regularly attends to continue making a positive impact in his local community.

This month, Middlesbrough Football club along with 43 other EFL and Premier League Clubs will celebrate the impact young people are having on NCS through #NCSMatchday. In 2019, young people from EFL Trust’s network delivered over 650 Social Action Projects, volunteered over 260,000 hours of social action and raised over £230,000 for local charities and causes that shines the light on the impact young people on NCS have had in their local community.

To find out more about NCS visit

Student praises the impact of Education Pathway at Mansfield Town

Teenager Joshua Warren has heaped praise onto Mansfield Town Football in the Community’s Education Pathway, saying it’s helped him grow rapidly in confidence and better prepare for life in the working world.

Currently in Year 13, Joshua spent a year at a local college prior to joining Football in the Community’s education pathway, making the switch after finding college life difficult, and feeling like his personal development was taking a backward step.

Joshua said “I’ve always struggled with my confidence and at School always had the one to one support, as soon as I went to college it was the exact opposite which made it [confidence] go back to where it was but having one to one support again here has brought me back up.”

Elizabeth Regan, Education Officer at Football in the Community said, “He had a really good background in sport but he wasn’t pushing himself to the best of his ability – he was achieving pass/merit level within his work and over the time he’s been with us, he’s progressed on to predominantly distinction grades.

“He’ll happily get involved in class discussions now, he’s a completely different student in the classroom to what he once was – I’m so proud of the journey he’s been on.”

Mansfield Town Football in the Community will be changing the Education Programme in the next academic year, running one of the countries newest BTEC courses and switching to an 11-a-side games programme, however the core values will remain the same, something Joshua believes will continue to make a massive difference.

He said “I would recommend studying here to anyone because you get to learn and play/train which really takes the stress off of the work that you’re doing – it helps you to focus and gives you something to work for and complete it to the best of your abilities.

“Meeting new people was a worry for me at first but I’m really glad I took the step, meeting people who have had similar journeys to me and watching them grow is nice to see – being able to enjoy something that you loved as a kid every day is a really good experience.”

From September, Football in the Community students will enrol on the BTEC Level Three Diploma/ Extended-Diploma in Sports Coaching and Development and play weekly matches in the newly developed CEFA League, ran by the EFL – with students of all footballing experience and ability level welcome

Education Officer Elizabeth Regan added “We take huge pride in the fact that we are not an elite level football development programme – our focus is primarily on the Education to set students up for a better career.

“The amount of young people who fall through the net and don’t make the grade as a professional footballer is alarming, with a huge percentage of those so focussed on playing – their educational and life experience is minimal.

“Our programme has the right balance between competitive game time at a very good standard, education and work experience opportunities – as students will discover first hand within our environment.

“The course is perfect for those who have a thirst for playing and enjoy the game, but who always want to progress and forge a career for themselves, or even move onto higher education.”

For further information, contact Elizabeth Regan on 01623 656 920, or email

“Teens to help young people at danger of domestic abuse”

Three teens from Wigan have selected to be ‘Safe Teen’ Ambassadors helping young people at The Liberty Centre, a local domestic abuse charity. The teens volunteered to support The liberty Centre during their time on NCS (National Citizen Service) with Wigan Athletic Community Trust.

The Liberty Centre is a local charity in Ormskirk that provide a wealth of services for all victims of domestic violence and abuse. Inspired by the work of the charity, three members of the group wanted to continue volunteering at the charity after doing NCS and were offered the role ass ‘Safe Teen’ Ambassadors. All three NCS Graduates visited Liverpool John Moore’s University to do sessions and train to be a Safe Teen Ambassador. Their role is to empower young women and girls and encourage them to talk about issues and offering advice. They will regularly visit schools to run events which involve listening to young people and educating the younger generation of the dangers of social media and safety.

Ava Walsh is now a Safe Teen Ambassador and is incredibly proud of her role at The Liberty Centre;

“Our role as Safe Teens Ambassadors is to empower girls and young women (aged 13-19) to improve the quality of their life, fulfil their potential and keep them safe from harm. Without NCS we wouldn’t have been able to become Safe Teen ambassadors, so it’s helped us to help others. My new role has allowed me to give confidence to young people but in return it has given me a lot of confidence.”

During Wigan Athletics’ upcoming fixture against Middlesbrough the football club and players will celebrate the impact young people are having on NCS through a campaign called #NCSMatchday. NCS provides young people aged 16-17 the chance to take on new challenges, experience exciting activities, and make long-lasting friendships and support young people’s transition to adulthood. The experience concludes with young people planning and delivering a social action project in their local community.

The group from Wigan who were coming to the end of the NCS experience met with the manager of The Liberty Centre and got an understanding of how the group could support charity. It started with the rejuvenation of their garden so that children could enjoy this area and bring colour to what was a run down space. After raising money to fund their project the team got to work by painting the fences, building a vegetable patch, and tidying up the space for the children to enjoy. The remaining money raised was donated to the charity to help with the refurbishment of a children’s play room.

Stacey Hives, I deliver the Safe Teens Project at The Liberty Centre said;

“The project aims to empower young people (aged 13-19 years old) to improve the quality of their life, fulfil their potential and keep them safe from harm.

“We were very fortunate last summer to have a group of young people (including Ava) from NCS who transformed the garden area within our refuge, they sourced paint, tyres to use as planters and spent many days painting, planting, dens for children etc. We now have a colourful garden that is a nice place for our clients to be. They also raised a large amount of money to put towards outdoor play equipment.

“Ava did become a Safe Teens ambassador. She is an inspirational young person and has really helped us shape the programmes ensuring the views and opinions of young people are captured within delivery of the project.”

#NCSMatchday is a campaign supported by over 40 EFL and Premier League clubs across the country during February and March. In 2019, young people from EFL Trust’s network delivered over 650 Social Action Projects, volunteered over 260,000 hours of social action and raised over £230,000 for local charities and causes that shines the light on the impact young people on NCS have had in their local community.

Jack: “My life skills have been developed significantly because of the apprenticeship programme at Wigan Athletic Community Trust.”

Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s apprenticeship programme – aimed at 16-18 year olds – aims to help young people forge a successful career in the PE and sport industries.

One young person to benefit from the scheme is Jack Corless who completed the apprenticeship programme in March 2019 and now works for the Trust as a School Sport and Cohesion Coach.

As part of his role, he leads delivery of PE and sport in local schools, something that would not have been possible but for the apprenticeship.

Speaking during National Apprenticeship Week, he said: “Before I started the apprenticeship, I didn’t have the confidence to speak to someone new. Now I am a Head Coach and go into schools every day to teach PE to classes of 30 children.

“I have developed significantly as a coach and a person whilst being on the apprenticeship and I’m glad that I chose to do it.

“The parts of the programme I found most useful was the opportunity to deliver across a wide range of projects, such as Premier League Primary Stars and Kicks, to develop my knowledge and experience.

“My life skills have been enhanced significantly because of Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s apprenticeship programme.”

The 18-month programme provides the chance to gain valuable experience including assisting the delivery of PE in schools and working on local community initiatives.

With the opportunity to wear the badge and represent the Club as well, Latics fan Jack says the chance to work for his local professional club was one that was too good to turn down.

“One of the reasons I joined the apprenticeship was to gain many life skills and the perfect chance to pursue my career down the coaching pathway.

“But I also did it to have the experience of working for a professional football club. Wigan Athletic are my local club and one of the reasons that persuaded me to do it.

“I know for certain that my development as a sports coach would not have been anywhere near the same if I had gone to a different programme.”

Please email or call 01942 318090 to find out more about Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s apprenticeship programme.

EFL Clubs join biggest ever conversation on mental health, in support of Heads Up campaign


Football is coming together this weekend with the ambition to kick off the biggest ever conversation around mental health, as new research shows just 1 in 3 football fans regularly talk about mental health with their friends.

Over the past two seasons, the EFL has joined forces with Mind, the mental health charity, to help improve football’s approach to mental health and raise awareness around the country.

Now, for two weekends in February, every football team from across the English Football League, Premier League, The National League, The Barclays FA Women’s Super League, The FA Women’s Championship and The FA Women’s National League will dedicate their matches to Heads Up, a partnership between The FA and Heads Together.

Spearheaded by HRH The Duke of Cambridge, the season-long Heads Up campaign aims to harness the influence and popularity of football to normalise the conversation around mental health, working closely with charity partners Mind, CALM and Sporting Chance.

The ‘Heads Up Weekends’ will highlight the power of talking as a way to support one another and dispel stigma, with activity planned at fixtures across the men’s and women’s football calendar.

EFL Clubs will feature Heads Up branding across stadiums, programmes and player kit over the weekend of February 7-9, in a major unifying moment that aims to get the nation talking about mental health. Over the weekends, clubs will also be showcasing the work they do to improve mental health in their communities.

The weekends will further highlight the important work taking place across football to improve the approach to mental health in football. This includes the EFL and Mind’s ground-breaking charity partnership, which began in 2018 and has provided increased visibility, important training and support for Clubs, staff and fans, and raised vital funds for the mental health charity.

To officially kick off the Heads Up Weekends, and marking Time To Talk Day on Thursday 6th February, The Duke of Cambridge today joined players, managers, representatives and fans from the men’s and women’s game to take part in a table football tournament and a mental health conversation at Heist Bank in London.

In a message included in every matchday programme over the Heads Up Weekends, HRH The Duke of Cambridge wrote:

“Imagine if we talked about mental health as much as we talk about football…. Many of us won’t go a day without talking about it. And whatever team we support, every single fan, player and manager has one thing in common – we all have mental health, in the same way that we all have physical health. And we will all face ups and downs in life which will affect it. It’s time we start taking our mental fitness as seriously as we do our physical fitness, and that starts with talking.”

Chairman of the EFL, Rick Parry, said:

“Through our ground-breaking partnership with Mind, the EFL and its Clubs have worked hard to improve the approach to mental health in football and wider society, over the past two seasons.  Football provides a platform like no other to raise awareness and tackle society’s biggest issues and we’re proud to offer our support to the Heads Up campaign, as football comes together to further encourage the conversation around mental health. I look forward to seeing the impact over the two weekends.”

The Heads Up Weekends take place over February 7-9 and 14-17. Fans are encouraged to join the conversation using #KickOffAConversation and #HeadsUp.

Find out more and get tips from Heads Up’s charity partners (Mind, CALM, Sporting Chance and Heads Together) – visit

Those wanting immediate support can also text ‘HeadsUp’ to 85258 to connect with a trained crisis volunteer – a service run by ‘Shout’ and powered by Crisis Text Line, which is available 24/7 and free to text from most mobile networks.

For further advice and support please visit To learn more about the EFL’s partnership with Mind, please visit:


Mick: “It feels like you’re a kid in a toy shop, having the opportunity with Crawley Town’s Extra Time Hub to be behind the scenes.”

Mick Brown, who has been a Crawley Town supporter for over 55 years, credits EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hubs for making him feel like a kid again and giving him a new lease of life after attending for a number of months.

EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hubs are run at 12 EFL clubs around the country and are funded by the National Lottery and Sport England. The Hubs are designed to bring retired and semi-retired people together by harnessing the power of their local Football Clubs and ultimately aimed at combating loneliness and inactivity. Crucially the Hubs create an informal atmosphere and enable the Hub members to decide which activities they want to do – nothing is off limits be it pilates, badminton, learning to play the ukulele or even sky diving.

Before joining the Hub, Mick was mildly isolated and suffered from mental health issues. He believes the Hub has really helped him to boost his mood and find structure in his life.

He explained: “Extra Time Hubs has given me a focus and a structure once a week, the sessions really boost my mood and meeting and talking to new people has really helped me get my self-confidence back.

“As you get less young, rather than older, you can become very insular only thinking of yourself and your immediate family but with coming out and doing things like this, you get to see other people.

 “Having a circle of people that you can meet once a week, has helped me to speak about issues and build new friendships, you can talk about things openly and help each other through it.

“It gives me a reason to get out of the house, otherwise I would just sit in front of the tele all day long.”

Studies show that 42% of those over the age of 55 are inactive. EFL Trust’s own research revealed many people would like the opportunity to meet peers to feel less isolated, live well and do the things they enjoy.

The Hubs harness the unique assets of the EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs) network to bring older people together and provide a range of activities that could benefit their physical and mental health.

As well as taking part in well-being walks and indoor-based games at the Hubs, Mick is a particularly keen walking football participant and feels this has been crucial in benefiting his fitness and mobility.

As a boyhood Crawley Town supporter, he also states that being involved in Extra Time Hubs behind the scenes at the stadium makes it even more special.

He said: “One of our activities, walking football has really helped slow down the symptoms of arthritis in my knees and all of the activities I’ve been involved in have helped me to get some mobility back.

“As a normal fan you never get to be behind the scenes normally, but with Extra Time Hubs as it’s based at the stadium, you get the opportunity to see where the players go. It makes me feel like a kid in a toy shop.”