“I have built up my confidence to speak to different people and within a group”

The EFL Trust’s network are supporting young people transition back into school life through the NCS ‘School Support Programme’.

So far, over 630 hours have been pledged to schools and this commitment will engage over 3,250 young people.  Working with schools across the country, the NCS School Support Programme focuses on 7 core areas to help young people. These include; health and wellbeing, employability, and skills for independent living.

Rotherham United Community Sport Trust (RUCST) have recently engaged 16 pupils at Abbey School in Rotherham through virtual sessions that aim to support their mental health, physical health, resilience, general daily organisation, and overall wellbeing.

The sessions are made as interactive as possible to keep the pupils engaged and cover topics such as stress busting, mood tracking, self-care, positive thinking, and how to improve overall mental and physical health.

One pupil said:

 “I felt shy at first but the lessons are fun and I have built up my confidence to speak to different people and within a group. I give the program 10/10. It has helped me recognise my own strengths and qualities that I can use in the future!”

Another pupil is really enjoying the session:

“Nicole and Joel are really funny and always make me laugh… I look forward every week to the sessions! I enjoy working with different students outside my class so we can all learn together and make new friends”

Schools are currently going though a very challenging period and the School Support Programme, as suggest in the title is there to support them and their pupils through this.

James Shaw, Careers Co-ordinator at Abbey school has welcome the programmes saying:

“The NCS School Support Program at Abbey School has been Amazing! It really has been a successful positive vehicle for driving collaborative blended learning and has enabled our young people to build friendships with other young people and learn about skills for the future to succeed together and be the best we can be!”

During one of the session delivered by RUCST, young people were given an insight into their mental health through an engaging ‘volcano experiment’. They created a metaphorical volcano that represented the build-up of stress, feelings and emotions until eventually the lava overflowed. This was a great way for the students to understand the importance of dealing with their stresses, emotions and feelings before things get too much.

Preston North End Launch ‘Together As One’ To Help Educate Young People on Racial Issues

Preston North End Community and Education Trust is launching ‘Together As One’ in partnership with Windrush Initiatives founder Adrian Murrell, a racism education programme forming part of its schools and community provision. Read more

Peterborough United Foundation helps combat holiday hunger for local children.

The Peterborough United Foundation, the charitable trust of Peterborough United Football Club, have been addressing issues with local schoolchildren being hungry over the October half-term.  This school holiday almost 200 children have received food parcels, containing a range of nourishing items to cover the week break, when children are not receiving their usual free school meal.

The issue of children being hungry over school holidays and also during lockdown has been highlighted by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford, and his campaign to tackle this concern with MP’s. The idea to help in Peterborough came from new Foundation CEO Gill Wignall and following discussions with supermarkets Morrisons and Asda, the project plan was devised and brought to fruition.

Gavin Slater, Community Manager for the Peterborough United Foundation said, “Seeing Marcus Rashford’s campaign and knowing many children that we work with on a regular basis were likely to be going hungry over half-term, we decided to donate food packages to the most vulnerable.  We spoke to our partner primary schools and identified nearly 200 children to receive the parcels.  We must thank both Morrisons and Asda for their support to make this happen and also Peterborough charity Food For Nought. Without their generosity it would not have been possible to feed so many.”

Many grateful children took their packages home on the last day of term, but packages were also delivered by the Foundation to children’s homes.  In Whittlesey, Executive Head Teacher of Park Lane and New Road Primary Schools, Rob Litten and PE Co-Ordinator Janette Bowden, delivered the packages to the recipients homes, on the first day of the holiday.

Bowden commented, “This is going to be a huge help to lots of our families within both our schools. Some of these families have been hit by losing jobs and being on furlough. This shows a great support from the schools to our families to really show them that we are there for support. We have worked with the Peterborough United Foundation on a number of activities and projects and thank them for supporting our families outside of school time.”

Foundation staff spent half a day assembling the parcels of cereals, pasta, fruit and other items, with excess items donated to Peterborough charity ‘Millfield Community Fridge’, who will distribute the items on the Foundation’s behalf to more grateful local residents in need.

Slater added, “We have had great support from our primary schools and their staff.  It is so pleasing to see how successful the project has been and how the packages have been so well received.  We hope to offer similar packages for other school holidays and increase the number of packages offered.”



With an increase of Coronavirus cases in Brentford, Ealing Council asked young people from the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme to help with its COVID-19 messaging to the general public.

Read more

Trustee at Brentford FC Community Sports Trust awarded BEM for Community Work

Brian Burgess a stalwart of Brentford FC Community Trust has been awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to football in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Brian, who has been involved with Brentford FC for decades, has been a Trustee for their Community Sports Trust for more than 15 years, helping to cement Brentford’s reputation as a community-led football club. He has been recognised for his voluntary service to football.

Speaking about the award, Brian said:

I am delighted and humbled to be awarded this BEM, which recognises the valuable work of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and its impact in local communities.

“It’s an absolute privilege to have served as a Trustee from the Trust’s inception in 2005 and to work closely with Chief Executive Lee Doyle and his team in developing such exciting projects such as the new community hub next to Brentford Community Stadium and the impressive sports hub at Gunnersbury Park.”

His passion for the Trust derives from a long-held belief that football and the local community should be fully integrated, which leads to enhanced social cohesion.

Speaking about the Trust, he said:

As a charity, the Community Sports Trust delivers a wide range of programmes using the power of sport to educate, motivate and inspire people from all backgrounds including vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups. The way in which the team has successfully adapted these goals to the difficult circumstances of the pandemic has been truly amazing.

“Therefore, this award is a tribute to everyone involved in the Community Sports Trust and its partners, and the efforts of so many former colleagues and volunteers at the Club and Bees United.

“On a personal level, I owe so much to my late wife, Sylvia, who was and always will be an inspiration.”

Along with his pioneering community work, Brian has been actively involved with Brentford FC for most of his life, initially as a supporter. He was Chairman of Bees United, the Brentford Supporters’ Trust, when the fans completed a takeover of Brentford FC in early 2006, helping raise the funds required to refinance the Club.

Brian helped pave the way for the initial involvement of current owner Matthew Benham and served as Deputy Chairman until taking up a paid position on the new stadium project in 2008. Brian first started working in a voluntary capacity on the project to get Brentford FC a new stadium 2002, which came to fruition last month. He was on the Boards of Lionel Road Developments Ltd and Brentford FC (Lionel Road) Ltd until 2017.

Ian Dobie, Chair of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, said:

“On behalf of everyone at Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, I congratulate Brian on being recognised for the work he has carried out so selflessly for the Club and Trust. This is a truly well-deserved honour.”

A view reflected by Lee Doyle, Chief Executive of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, he said:

“Brian is a fantastic role model for sport supporters that want to make a positive difference to their club and its surrounding communities. It has been a remarkable journey and we are looking forward to a bright future.”

Player visits continue… virtually!

Despite the ongoing effects of COVID-19, EFL players across the country are finding new ways to have an impact in their local community through various virtual platforms.

Football Clubs are at the heart of local communities and children see their players as role models. School visits from players across the EFL are a common fixture under usual circumstances, however in many areas, children are currently missing out due to the pandemic.

However, that hasn’t stopped Doncaster Rovers midfielder, Ben Whiteman, paying a surprise virtual visit to some Year 5 and 6 Students at Sunnyfields Primary school in Doncaster. The session included Ben chatting with the children about his life as a footballer, his role as club captain and the overall benefits of playing sport keeping fit and active. This was followed by a Q&A session.

Emma Smith, teacher of the Tiger class at Sunnyfields Primary, in Doncaster, said:

“We loved the opportunity today. The children came up with their own questions to ask Ben.

We’ve got quite a few footballers in our class so it was really good to hear some expert advice on how they can get better and how they can train better.”

Club Doncaster Foundation are keen to make this a regular occurrence during this challenging time. Kelly Jackson-Powell, Sports development officer at Club Doncaster Foundation said:

“Our player visits are always very well received in the community and being able to continue to do this safely is great for the children. 

The class really enjoyed today and were able to chat to Ben about his life as a professional footballer, and even asked him some cheeky questions too!

We’re looking forward to arranging some more events like this in the future.”


Newcastle and Sunderland’s intense rivalry is being set aside today, as they send an important message to fellow football fans on World Mental Health Day – mental health has no team and no colours.

Brought together by Newcastle United Foundation and Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light, Geordies and Mackems alike are being encouraged to start potentially life-saving conversations with family and friends, or to take their own steps to share their mental wellbeing with others.

This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘mental health for all’, so the Newcastle United Foundation and Foundation of Light have released a powerful and compelling video featuring the stories of two fans who have received support through the club’s official charities, and as part of the Be a Game Changer campaign.

Andrew a life-long Sunderland fan, speaks about how a difficult, and heart-breaking, situation was the catalyst for him to seek help and open-up about how he was feeling. The life-changing support he needed came when he visited the Match Day Mental Health Hub at the Beacon of Light – a free service created by Sunderland AFC supporter group, Branch Liaison Council, and supported by the Foundation of Light – which provides fans access to free trained counsellors from Washington Mind.

Andrew a diehard Newcastle fan, tells of how he struggled with poor mental health for a number of years as a result of anxiety relating to his weight. Last year he tried to take his own life but found support through Newcastle United Foundation.

Ashley Lowe, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Newcastle United Foundation, said: “On World Mental Health Day, we are sharing an important and powerful message from Newcastle and Sunderland supporters themselves, who have come together to tell others that mental health is something you can talk about and you will be listened to. One in four of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives. These issues are indiscriminate and mental health has no club and no colours – our experiences with mental health make us human and we need to talk about it more openly to encourage potentially life-saving conversations. For men in particular, who love their club and their city – the Be A Game Changer campaign is here to support them and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.”

Funded by the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, the Be A Game Changer mental health awareness campaign aims to reduce the region’s suicide rates among men aged 20 to 49. In January this year, both charities joined forces to make a combined commitment to promote positive mental health to thousands of supporters visiting St. James’ Park and the Stadium of Light through the campaign.

Liz Barton-Jones, Foundation of Light’s Head of Health and Wellbeing, said: “We know that there are so many people out there struggling in silence; particularly men who are often led to believe sharing their feelings is ‘not what men do’. “Our Be A Game Changer campaign is there to let people know they will be listened to and supported, and it’s okay to not be okay. We hope the powerful video and the fans stories gets people talking – in Sunderland and Newcastle – as we know all it takes to potentially save a life, is to start that first conversation. If we can encourage just one fan to open up it’s been a success.”

The important and powerful message comes at a critical time for the region. The COVID-19 crisis has not only left stands at both stadiums empty, with supporters unable to share matchdays with loved ones or fellow fans, it has also resulted in an increase in mental health related issues as thousands struggle with social isolation, the worries of job security and the financial impact of the pandemic.

Throughout lockdown, both Foundations have adapted their health and wellbeing programmes to ensure participants of all ages remained engaged – in Newcastle, this included more than 1,000 phone calls made to elderly and vulnerable people, around 200 people given mental health guidance to lower anxiety and feeling of loneliness, and NHS staff invited to access Be A Game Changer mental wellness guidance online.

In Sunderland, elderly members of the community were supported through regular contact though phone calls and WhatsApp messages as part of the Extra Time Hub, with SAFC Director David Jones personally calling 45 fans. Sit and Be Fit exercise videos were shared online for those unable to get out, and the dedicated free fitness programme for fans, Fit Black Cats, temporarily moved to Facebook to continue supporting members, with each losing an average of 5kg during lockdown.

Be A Game Changer Facebook communities for both clubs have also played their part during lockdown as they have become an increasingly important hub to thousands of people, offering comfort, advice and practical information for those experiencing mental health issues or for friends and relatives supporting someone else.

With some lockdown restrictions lifted, both charities are back to operating a number of weekly health and wellbeing programmes, including Walking Football, free over-40s NHS health checks, specific mental health sessions with Fit Black Cats, 12th Man and Washington Mind’s Get Set to Go programmes.

The Be A Game Changer campaign was originally launched in February 2019 to encouraged Newcastle United supporters to talk about they are really feeling and to recognise when they or their loved ones are in crisis.

For more information about Be a Game Changer in Newcastle, visit nufoundation.org.uk/beagamechanger.

For support and further information in Sunderland, please visit foundationoflight.co.uk/beagamechanger.

Alternatively, join the NUFC Facebook community or the SAFC Facebook community.

When George met Mahala – Charlton Star Interviews Mental Health Participant

As part of World Mental Health Day Addicks Star George Lapslie conducted a fascinating interview with Mahala a participant on one of Charlton Athletic Community Trust’s mental health programmes

George offered to interview Mahala as part of CACT and Charlton Athletic’s celebration of World Mental Health Day in partnership with the English Football League and MIND Charity.

During the fascinating interview Mahala opened up about her experience of psychosis. CACT organised a Zoom conversation between Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) participant Mahala and Charlton Athletic first-team player George Lapslie.

Mahala Debnam, 29, became a participant on EIP, which is run in partnership with the Kent and Medway Early Intervention Service in West Kent, in 2017. The programme is funded by Live Well Kent, a network of organisations who come together to support people with their mental health and general wellbeing.

“I was involved due to experiencing my first episode of acute psychosis back in July 2017”, Mahala explained. “CACT’s project and services have been part of the programme for the Early Intervention in Psychosis team to help people like myself going through struggles of psychosis. “Without the CACT programme, I would not have been where I am today with my mental health recovery”, she added.

The EIP programme involves a range of sport and physical activities plus culture and leisure visits. Mahala told George about four-day Next Steps residential to Cornwall for participants who are at an advanced stage of their recovery.

Mahala, who is from Higham, Kent, describes one activity on the trip as a “turning point” in her  journey. “One of the things we did was do a zip wire flight over the Eden Project globes. This was very much a turning point in my mental health due to being able to overcome my fear and anxiety as a whole.”

George said: “I think a lot of players probably do suffer with some sort of mental health problem. It’s not at all, but in the eyes of football it’s sort of seen as a weakness to say ‘do you know what, I feel down today, I don’t feel alright’. “I don’t really talk to anyone about it [mental health], my girlfriend is the person I really talk to about it but really and truly you need more people than just one person to talk to about your problems.”

Chris Thomas, a spokesperson for Live Well Kent, said: “Many people will benefit from CACT’s expertise and we’re pleased to fund its work. We also believe that a joint approach is the best way to help people who are struggling, so we’re very glad to have CACT as part of our network of support services. “It means CACT’s clients will find it easier to access other Live Well Kent support – for more general health issues, housing or employment – when they feel ready to do so.”

CACT runs a number of mental health programmes in addition to EIP, which it also delivers in South East London in partnership with Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust.  These include Up & At ‘Em, an award-winning mental health project run in partnership with Oxleas for over 65s with a mental health diagnosis.

Click here to watch clips of George and Mahala’s discussion.

Mental health is just as important as physical – there should be no shame in saying ‘I think I need help.”

“The sport really changed my life in so many ways mentally and physically. I have lost weight and also have dropped my blood sugar levels to a safer level.” say Duncan, who takes part in Stevenage FC’s Get Set to Go Football Session.

Duncan, aged 50, has a history of suffering with anxiety, depression and Type II Diabetes. He joined the Get Set to Go, which is run in partnership with Mind in Mid Herts, back in January 2020. Despite initial nerves linked to his anxiety, Duncan joined the sessions from week 1 and found that as the weeks went on, not only did his physical health improve, stating weight loss and better control of his blood sugar levels, but his mental health also significantly improved.

He says “The best thing I could have done was getting in contact with Mind in Mid Herts, as I wanted to be more active to lose weight and get my blood sugars under control. Mental health is just as important as physical and there should be no shame in saying ‘I think I need help.”

Although the football sessions had to be suspended during the lockdown period, Duncan continued to stay active by joining in with virtual fitness sessions lead by the Foundation and Mind in Mid Herts. He managed to improve his fitness levels even further through these sessions and found that the weekly group engagement was key in maintaining his social contact. These sessions took place weekly and helped maintain a sense of community for the participants  keeping them engaged in being active. There was even ‘guest visits’ from the First Team Manager Alex Revell.

Duncan has made remarkable progress with Stevenage FC, so much so, he has been appointed the Clubs Get Set Go Champion.  As part of this role he, this week, presented Stevenage Captain Scott Cuthbert with his PFA Community Player of the Year Award for 2019/20.

The outdoor football sessions have now returned and Duncan is thriving by being able to engage with like-minded people who are in a similar position to him and continue to play the sport that he loves.

Duncan concludes, “A massive thank you to everyone involved with Mind, Get Set to Go and Stevenage FC Foundation, you really have changed my life for the better.”


Simon “The football sessions at Tranmere have helped me deal with my anxiety.”

The power of football has always played a huge part in the life of Simon Ryecroft and has acted as a coping mechanism to deal with his depression and anxiety.

Simon, aged 40, is a regular participant at Tranmere Rovers in the Community’s Active Rovers Over 40s football sessions, and has benefited significantly, both mentally and physically, from participating in the weekly sessions at Prenton Park.

Speaking to raise awareness for World Mental Health Day 2020, Simon wanted to share his story of having a mental breakdown, and how Tranmere Rovers helped in his road to recovery.

“I hadn’t played football for a long time, but I saw on social media about the football sessions, but I went along to try, and I have never looked back. That is now over three years ago. Time has flown by. I had a breakdown and a depressive episode four years ago and I got diagnosed with PCSD, an anxiety disorder, depression and OCD.

“Mental health affects a lot of people and through my own experiences, I know a lot of men have troubles talking about it. “I was quite ill for a period of time, but I have always been quite open talking about my mental health. I realised it is something a lot of people have experienced but don’t always feel comfortable talking about it. “I was surprised how many lads I know and in football in particular, you wouldn’t have thought had any issues with mental health. I had a few conversations because I opened the subject with people and they shared their issues too. Gradually over the last few years, it is becoming a subject lads are finding it easier to talk about.

“We now see famous footballers and boxers talking about their experiences and making their mental health problems public. I think sharing helps.”

Simon, who has always had a keen interest in football since an early age, admitted he is not the only one who has used football as a way to cope.

He continued: “The football sessions at Tranmere have helped me deal with my anxiety. I know a lot of lads have said it is the only time they feel like they have not got problems is when they play football.

“The people at Tranmere Rovers Football Club are extremely friendly and the emphasis was having a good time. I have got my fitness back up and I have met some very positive people. “I was very low on motivation and depressed, I wasn’t doing much in my life general. Football has always been there in my life and by joining the sessions at Tranmere, it gave me confidence again. It has been massive for me. It has given me routine and something to look forward to each and every week. I feel happy and it has given me a buzz when I head home.

“It is difficult when you are in that place and depressed. It is not a nice place when you don’t have the motivation to go out and it is hard to make that first step. Once you have done the first step, you feel so much better. Tranmere Rovers is such a welcoming football club and when new lads turn up, the others make them feel right at home.”