I Wanted to Give Myself a Better Chance of Living Longer and Being Fit and Healthy

“It’s not easy to make change at my age,” says James Priestley, “However, I wanted to give myself a better chance of living longer and being fit and healthy and that’s were FIT FANS comes in.”

James joined FIT Blackpool at Blackpool FC Community Trust.  The 12-week health programme, which funded by Sport England through the National Lottery is run at over 30 EFL clubs, provides those aged 35-65 with an opportunity to make a life-style changes, to help lose weight, get fitter and lead a more active life.

At first James had doubts about joining thinking he might be judged or he the exercise would be too hard, but he explains how FIT Fans is different,

“The camaradiere is brilliant it really helps you get through. Everyone is treated as an individual with individual goals. There’s no judgement and you go at your own pace, starting off slowing and increasing as the weeks go by. It’s 12 weeks to change your life. Each week you cover something different and make a small change in your life, eating better, exercising more. In 12 weeks these small changes have turned into a one big difference”

The changes James made to his lifestyle have certainly made a big difference to his own life as he explains, “There is no doubt that I feel so much better within myself, let alone looking better. I no longer have sleep apnoea and I am able to have a good night’s sleep. My blood pressure has reduced and is now considered to be in the normal range. I feel so much more active and no longer crave for the snacks which had become part and parcel of everyday life. Taking exercise has become so much easier and I no longer get out of breath so easily. I have dropped 6 inches from my waist size as well as a noticeable reduction in body shape/size’. 

 FIT FANS has helped thousands of people, not just football fans, to achieve long-term improvements in weight loss, physical activity, diet and general well-being.

The main aims of the programme are to:

  • Improving eating habits
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Increasing your activity levels – one step at a time!
  • Reducing weight and waistline measurement

Click here for more information and find a FIT FANS near you


EFL Trust FIT FANS Wins Leaders in Sport Award

The EFL Trust’s FIT FANS programme, which has helped over 1,000 fans to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, has won a prestigious national award.

The 12-week healthy lifestyle programme, which is run by over 30 EFL clubs, has been awarded the Leaders in Sports Community Award. The awards showcase the most innovative organisations and people driving the sports industry forward.

FIT FANS is a lifestyle behaviour change programme for overweight and obese football supporters which is tackling the growing national issue of obesity. By 2022 it estimated that 40% of British people will be overweight or obese. The programme uses the unique pull of football clubs to reach fans, to bring people together to improve lifestyle behaviours and reduce weight, waistline and blood pressure.

FIT FANS was originally developed in Scotland by Glasgow University and SPFL Trust as Football Fans in Training.  The programme attracts adults aged 35-65 and is delivered by coaching staff at their local football club charity. It is known locally as FIT BORO, FIT PILGRIMS, FIT RAMS and FIT OWLS . to appeal to fans using the club nickname. It uses tried-and-tested behaviour change techniques, peer support and creates social bonds that last.

Funded by £2.25m from the National Lottery, FIT FANS is initially supporting people in 30 localities with the highest rates of adult obesity and type 2 diabetes and aims to:

  • Improve eating habits
  • Help people achieve at least 45 minutes of moderate intensity activity most days
  • Include regular self-monitoring of weight and pedometer step counts, creating behaviour change for the future.

January 2020 saw the nationwide roll-out of the programme in England. In the first cohort of 1,000 starters 70% completed the programme. Of the participants who were able to provide end measurements in lockdown (these would normally be taken at the Club) 93% had lost weight and 94% had reduced their waist measurement. On average the first cohort lost an impressive 7.2kg and reduced their waist line by 8.9cm.

The first cohort of FIT FANS were at risk of having their 12-week programme reduced due to COVID-19. However, FIT FANS Clubs adapted quickly, continuing to work with the teams remotely.  With obesity being a major risk factor for COVID-19 the programme is set to play an important role in the future health of many more fans across the country.



Canaries Support Community with £200K Donation From Players and Directors

2020 has been challenging, but Norwich City’s Community Sports Foundation has continued its sterling work for the people of Norfolk

During the lockdown, the Foundation launched the Canaries Covid-19 Community Support Project thanks to a donation of over £200k from the first team squad and directors. The project has two phases, response and recovery: an initial response to help vulnerable members of the community during lockdown, and a longer-term plan to help the community to recover from the impact of lockdown such as inactivity, social isolation, and unemployment.

Members of the first team, Club staff, and Foundation staff made several thousand wellbeing calls to potentially vulnerable season ticket holders, and deliveries of food and activity packages were made to a range of charities and local causes. Throughout lockdown, the Foundation team adapted quickly to continue their community support remotely, through the development of an app, live and recorded online sessions, and other support for usual and new participants.

While balancing the challenges that everyone is facing in 2020, the Foundation is nearing completion of the construction of its community hub The Nest. The first phase of the project, which saw the rejuvenation of a disused sports facility on the outskirts of Norwich, was completed in late 2018 and included the renovation of the existing clubhouse and relaying of seven grass football pitches.

A second phase includes a full-size floodlit 3G pitch, which has been open over the summer of 2020, and a brand-new building housing two multi-use areas, an IT suite, and accessible changing facilities to help the Foundation increase its community reach by over 12,000 people a year.

The Build the Nest fundraising campaign is nearing its conclusion thanks to an injection of £500,000 from Norwich City FC, match-funding the efforts of supporters and fundraisers to raise the final £1million of the £4.6million total cost. The Foundation’s team are working to reach the final target in time for the completion of construction in the coming months.

Recently, Norwich City season ticket holders and members showed their pride in the Club’s community presence by donating over £175,000 of potential rebates in order to help the Foundation reduce its lost fundraising revenue in 2020 from cancelled events.

A Weight Off Lee’s Mind

Minimum exercise, daily takeaways and a craving for sugary drinks – three of the habits Sunderland Fan Lee Stewart had to kick to improve both his mental and physical well-being.

After losing his parents Lee spiralled into a depression that affected his confidence and self-motivation; earlier this year, a very anxious and despondent Lee made the brave step to join the Foundation of Light’s FIT BLACK CATS programme.

Inspired by the idea of improving his health in a positive environment, he signed up to the free health programme, based in and around the Stadium of Light. The 12-week programme, which is run at over 30 EFL clubs, provides those aged 35-65 with an opportunity to make a life-style changes, to help lose weight, get fitter and lead a more active life.

Struggling to deal with the death of his parents, Lee knew he needed to make changes for the good of his health Lee engaged with the group straight away and over the weeks went from doing no exercise at all to gradually enjoying 5-mile runs every other day!

He ditched the daily fast-food and learnt how to manage his cravings for his favourite Dr Pepper drink and began changing his eating habits; all of this progress led to him achieving the biggest weight-loss of over 6kg – a feat he never thought he’d reach.

“I honestly don’t know where I’d be without the programme. It’s made me have a much more positive outlook and feel more in control of my life’” Lee explained.

“Training and learning inside of the Stadium of Light was a fantastic experience and so inspiring.

“I hadn’t done any running in almost 12 years – now I’ve bought a FitBit and I’m doing 3-4 5-mile runs a week!”

FIT FANS has helped thousands of people, not just football fans, to achieve long-term improvements in weight loss, physical activity, diet and general well-being.

The main aims of the programme are to:

  • Improve your eating habits
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Increase your activity levels – one step at a time!
  • Reduce your weight and waistline
  • Support each other to stay on track

Click here for more information and find a FIT FANS near you


Lisa’s Story: “It helped me gain confidence in myself and stop feeling ashamed all the time.”

 “Over the past 3 years I have piled on the weight especially when I changed my job. I lost all self confidence in myself.” says Lisa Allen.

However things changed for Lisa when she joined FIT BAGGIES, West Bromwich Albion’s Healthy lifestyle programme.  Lisa adds,

“I was ashamed at how big I was and knew I really needed to do something about it. However, I surprised myself by emailing Lyndsey at West Bromwich Albion Community Trust and asking about the FIT programme and then joining up. What encouraged me to join was the fact that it was all around my age group.”

The 12-week programme, which funded by Sport England through the National Lottery is run at over 30 EFL clubs, provides those aged 35-65 with an opportunity to make a life-style changes, to help lose weight, get fitter and lead a more active life.

Having lost an impressive 8.8kg on the programme Lisa is now living a much healthier lifestyle, she continues,

“The programme has given me the will power to actually do something about my weight. After the first week of doing some exercise at the programme I got the bug and started do some exercise at home for 3-4  times a week. I am now exercising 7 days a week and am now starting to get more movement in my joints as well.”

“I got to meet a great set of people on the programme. Every session we attended was great fun and not once did I feel uncomfortable.  It has helped me gain confidence in myself with going out and stop feeling ashamed all the time. “

Click here for more information and find a FIT FANS near you


Shielding Cherries Fan Plays his Hero on FIFA

Young Bournemouth fan Adam Sevenoakes got a huge lift after a long period of shielding when his hero, Cherries winger Junior Stanislas, popped round for a game of FIFA.   Adam, who is also a player for AFC Bournemouth Warriors, the club’s powerchair team, had been shielding at home between March and the end of July.

Once shielding was over he welcomed Stanislas round for a long-awaited FIFA rematch. As Adam explains this isn’t the first time they have played and the pair’s rivalry goes back a couple of years:

“I was at Julia’s House (the local hospice) when the players came in around Christmas, and there was a game between me and Junior against another person and Ryan Fraser.”

Since then the pair have stayed in touch as Adam explains,

“I message him quite a lot on my dad’s Instagram, during lockdown I’d say well done if he had a good game, then he asked: ‘Can we have a rematch?’”

Adam didn’t think it was possible as they were on different platforms so they couldn’t play an online game. However, Stanislas was undeterred and made the offer to come over once Adam was out of shielding.  To which Adam says

“I answered that quite quickly!”

The promise of the FIFA battle provided something positive to look forward to during a long period of shielding for the 14-year-old, Adam says,

 “Shielding has been a bit difficult and a bit annoying, we’ve been doing it since March and at some points shielding was a real struggle but when Stanno said he was coming it was something to look forward to, ”

True to his word once shielding was over Stanislas, arranged to visit. Adam says “It was quite surreal really” although like most teenagers Adam, had a job to do before the visit. “We cleaned my bedroom first, that was mum’s job!”

With the bedroom tidy – which as you can see from the photo, is of course in the Cherries red and black, the stage was set for the rematch, and across three fixtures it turned into a nail-biting affair, as Adam explains

“In the first game we were both Bournemouth and Stanno won 4-0, I picked him in my team, and he picked himself too,” said Adam of his slow start.

“Then I won the second game 3-1, I was the Soccer Aid team and Stanno was an Argentinian team. In the last game it was Manchester United against Chelsea, it was 1-1 but luckily I won 3-2 on penalties. That meant I won two and he won one, so I won! He’s already suggested that we have another rematch soon, it’s a friendly rivalry we have now.”

Ever-positive Adam hopes to return to Vitality Stadium in the new season.

 “I hope we’re able to get back to the stadium soon, it’s my second home. It will be a bit odd, but the atmosphere won’t have changed I think.

Teen discovers passion for volunteering

Ashur Cali, 16, from Leeds has a whole new outlook on volunteering and a more positive outlook on life after completing the National Citizen Service’s (NCS) ‘Keep Doing Good’ programme.

Had 2020 gone to plan, Ashur, was due to go away on the traditional NCS programme this summer to live independently, meet new people, develop new skills and contribute to making a difference in the  community. However, social distance restrictions meant this was not possible,  Ashur was still able to make a difference in the community through completing NCS’s‘Keep Doing Good’ programme. ‘Keep Doing Good’ aims to pledge 1 million volunteering hours into local communities to help them bounce back from the impact of COVID-19.

Before the two week ‘Keep Doing Good’ programme, Ashur thought that volunteering was limited to working for free for a company and wasn’t aware of the charity work he was able to get involved with. Whilst on ‘Keep Doing Good’ Ashur took part in some volunteering at Shine community garden in Leeds. The gardens provide the local community with a scenic place escape to, relax and enjoy a little bit of countryside in the heart of the city.  After helping with the renovating of the gardens, Ashur has a much better understanding of volunteering and is keen to volunteer again the future. He would also like others to be inspired by what the group have done, and get involved with volunteering themselves.

Ashur said

“I’ve not only volunteered and done some good but I now feel a lot better than I did before starting the program. My time has been spent doing something worthwhile and bringing something positive to another person’s day

Whilst on ‘Keep Doing Good’ Ashur developed his teamwork skills. The group was tasked with gathering and debating ideas for a Social Action Project before presenting them as a group.

Ashur said

“At the start of the two weeks, I would have put myself forward for a leadership role, leading and making decisions, assuming I was the best at the job. However, the time with NCS has taught me the value of stepping back and listening to others and that not only my voice matters in a collaborative environment. Now, I loosen the reigns in a way and allow other members of the team to make a choice and I will follow their leadership, more of a team player than before the program.

Stacey Fannan, Team Leader, at Learn By Design noticed a change in Ashur and said

“On day one Ashur was a quietly confident young person. Always keen to give an answer or volunteer to take charge. He has been a driving force amongst the team from the get-go. However, a noticeable change in Ashur is although he is confident and first to offer an answer or response, he would doubt himself in his answer especially if challenged. Now on the final day, Ashur is quick to answer and able to confidently give justification for his answers and positively meet challenges. He also made positive development in his teamwork and listening skills and can work collaboratively to achieve team goals.”

To find out more about ‘Keep Doing Good’ visit https://wearencs.com/keep-doing-good

Watford Community Sports and Education Trust continues to support a wide range of members of the community….just as it always has.

As the new season kicks off this weekend, we’re delighted to welcome Watford to the EFL and we’ve been looking back at Watford Community Sports and Education Trust’s response to lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Should you look up community in the dictionary, you would find a statement that lacks depth – ‘a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common’. However, when you see community in action, rather than words on a page or screen, that’s when you really understand what it means.

To see this community in action you need look no further than the way the Watford FC family has reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fantastic efforts of staff from across the club alongside groups of magnificent volunteers and partner organisations, with the Hornets at Home and Vicarage Road Stadium Sanctuary initiatives – have been wonderful to witness.

Contrary to the definition, at Watford, community transcends ‘common personality traits’, in fact it is the polar opposite. This is a community made up of an array of members boasting diversity across age, gender, background, culture, mental health, physical health and yes, even across ‘particular characteristics’. This is at the heart of the work of Watford FC’s Community Sports and Education Trust. Even in these difficult, unprecedented times it continues to cater for a wide range of members of the community, just as it always has.

There has been support for local schools and pupils with a range of home learning resources across PSHE, English, Maths and physical activity, as well as a mental wellbeing course delivered online. Elsewhere youngsters have been kept engaged with footballing technical challenges, drills and tips, with tailor made strength and conditioning clips provided for players who are part of the disability hub.

Young people have been kept engaged with a series of online offerings including FIFA tournaments, forums, quizzes, bakery classes and skills practises. To keep the mind active as well, there have been online classroom sessions and employability mentoring.

The focus for adults has been health – both physical and mental – from home workouts and weight management support to programmes focussed on providing motivation and signposting to appropriate exercises via phone calls, texts, and emails. Weekly mental wellbeing catch-ups and quizzes have also been running via Zoom.

The Trust has also kept in touch with some of our older members of the community. On top of the regular wellbeing calls as part of the Hornets at Home initiative, there has been engagement with older members of both Cedars Youth & Community Centre and Meriden Community Centre. The specially designed publication of the Golden Times newspaper provided further sustenance for the mind.

Match all of this with the intergenerational work of encouraging children and young people to get in touch with the older generation with letters and hosted quizzes, there really is some inspirational work going on around this community and we’re delighted they are joining out network.

International success at Harrogate Town AFC Community Foundation

After winning promotion from the National League last season, Harrogate Town AFC Community Foundation are now part of the EFL Trust’s network of Club Community Organisations (CCO)….and they bring with them an England International!

Harrogate Town AFC Community Foundation are one of the many CCOs who have a Walking Football team. Walking football is a slower paced version of the game that is designed to keep the older generations, specifically over 50’s, active.

The social aspect of the game is also huge part of its appeal, bringing people together who all have a shared passion for football is great for the mental health of participants.

In October 2019, one of the participants was about to embark on a journey that would see him reach the top of his game. Harrogate Town AFC were invited to trials by Danny Ward, England 70+ Walking Football Team Manager, who was seeking players for the national team. During the trials, two assessors were assigned to scr

utinise each team, looking for; passing skills, work rate, positional play, attitude, commitment, stamina and teamwork.

Out of 78 players, Harrogate Town AFC’s Lawrie Coulthard was one of the few selected for the next round of trials which consisted of a shadow match against England’s walking football ‘A team’. After a star performance, Lawrie was invited to a final practise match and the following day Lawrie received a phone call from the England manager to say he would play be for the A team in their next match against the new shadow team!

Lawrie said:

“Needless to say, I am immensely proud and delighted to have come this far and perhaps with more good performances I could break into the side in a full international

I have to say that the work that Harrogate Town AFC Walking Football Club have put in to develop us old boys has been instrumental in my  progress – in particular Ian Service and Glyn (our coach). The quality of play has improved tremendously since the Walking Section was introduced in early this year. I would also like to extend my thanks to Bernie Lyons who organises the Walking Football sessions on Thursdays, and from which the Town’s section was born.”

At the heart of all the hard work going at Harrogate Town AFC Foundation is Head of Community, Iain Service.

“We have been developing Walking Football here at Harrogate Town AFC for a number of years. It’s a fantastic way for those aged 50 years + to make new friends and rediscover their passion for team sports and competition. Plus there are multiple health benefits, increasing fitness levels and reducing social isolation and loneliness. Our competitive teams regularly compete in the Northern Premier League each month, with our oldest member Lawrie Coulthard representing England at 70 years plus! The most pleasing aspect is the way deep routed friendships have developed. During Covid we all genuinely missed both football and everyone’s company. We are certain that the Walking Football section at Harrogate Town AFC will continue going from strength to strength.

“As a growing Charity Harrogate Town AFC CIO are absolutely thrilled to be part of the EFL Trust network. Our inclusion will allow us to significantly increase the number of programmes that we deliver, positively impacting on the residents within Harrogate & District. We are excited for the growth of our Charity and look forward to working in partnership with the EFL Trust and other partners.”

To find out more about Harrogate Town AFC Community Foundation and the work they do visit https://www.harrogatetownafc.com/the-club/community/