Sunderland AFC fans from around the globe have raised a staggering £212,061 for local charities this season, as part of the Sunderland Together campaign.

Created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunderland Together saw fans from across the world donate to support frontline community response services in Sunderland, South Tyneside and County Durham.

The 2020/2021 football season was one like no other, and whilst fans couldn’t be together at the matches, Black Cat supporters from Wearside, County Durham and beyond came together to support their communities during the pandemic. From phone support for those struggling with their mental health through to drive-through foodbank collections, supporters have gone the extra mile this year to support those who need it most.

Over £170,000 alone was raised as part of the virtual Wembley ticket initiative ahead of the Papa John’s Trophy Final in March, which saw the sale of over 11,000 commemorative tickets. Sunderland AFC donated over £21,000 following the sale of 2021/2022 season cards.  The money raised has gone to support five local charities, with Sunderland AFC’s official charity the Foundation of Light, Sunderland Foodbank, Salvation Army, Washington Mind and Veterans in Crisis in Sunderland all benefitting.

Jonathan Conlon from Sunderland Foodbank explains that the money is already making a difference to those who need it most in the region,

“So far this year we have helped support nearly 3,000 people across Sunderland – providing everyone with emergency food and toiletry supplies in their period of financial crisis. This incredible donation is timely in light of the ongoing pressures linked to the pandemic so thank you again to everyone involved.”

Working in partnership with the Red and White Army Supporters Trust, Sunderland AFC Branch Liaison Council and SAFC Senior Supporters Association, Sunderland Together was administered by the Foundation of Light and Chief Executive, Lesley Spuhler OBE DL said,

“This is a staggering amount of money to raise and shows just how amazing our supporters are. The money will go towards supporting critical frontline services across the region tackling food poverty, social isolation, unemployment and poor mental health. It is a testament to just what can be achieved when our club, community and supporters work together. A huge, huge thank you to everyone who donated and supported this campaign. Your kindness has made a life-changing difference to thousands of lives across the North East.”

Graham Wharton, Community Manager at The Salvation Army’s Southwick Community Project, said:

“As a proud Sunderland AFC supporter, I’m absolutely delighted that Mackems and people across the country have come together and donated to good causes including The Salvation Army’s work here in Sunderland. Thanks to everyone’s incredible generosity, we will be able to continue our mission, which includes providing food parcels for struggling families, and breakfast and after-school clubs for young people. We are also going to buy a van to transport much needed essential items which will ensure we are able to meet the needs of people right across Sunderland and develop exciting new projects to support our communities.”

As part of the Sunderland Together fundraiser, Washington Mind have been able to purchase a van to support mobile outreach projects in the community. “EJacqui Reeves, Chief Executive of  Washington  Mind  said

Everyone  at  Washington  Mind  is  totally  overwhelmed  by the phenomenal amount raised by the Sunderland Together campaign. This will make a huge difference to us and your support helps to further our mission to raise awareness around mental health issues, provide support and training, prevent suicides and save lives. Your support is invaluable to us and our community, thank you again!”

Andrew Hird, Chair of the Red and White Army Supporter Trust said,

“The amount raised for Sunderland Together initiative is phenomenal and shows the generosity of our fantastic fanbase. It’s been a challenging period during the COVID-19 pandemic but the money raised will make a real difference to the communities of Sunderland, South Tyneside and County Durham.”

Jim Gilling, Chair of the Sunderland AFC Branch Liaison Council said,

“The SAFC Branch Liaison Council want to thank everyone who contributed to this fantastic total. The money raised will be very much appreciated by the charities and we are sure they will put it to good use to assist our local community. We were pleased to take an active role in this initiative and will certainly continue to engage with any future initiatives that benefit our local charities.”



Plymouth Argyle helped thousands of children get active during lockdown

“The Joy of moving programme has provided our school with a fantastic opportunity to allow our key worker children and those learning remotely to take part in the same physical activities and have fun!” Read more

Adrian Bradley: How Extra Time Hubs are adding life to years.

So what do you do when a pandemic comes along and your flagship service for older people, who have been advised to stay at home and shield, involves encouraging large numbers of them to congregate in a room each week? Well, you innovate and improvise. Above all, you stay in touch and help people to stay connected.

Our Extra Time Hubs are pilots of our concept for how our football club charities reach and support people in their retirement years. They are places where members come together weekly to socialise, do things they enjoy, feel better connected and move towards healthy and positive lifestyle habits.

The weekly gathering is only one aspect of the Extra Time Hub which are Funded by the National Lottery and Sport England. Think of it as a wheel with the gathering at the centre and a wide range of activity groups as the spokes. Members decide what they like to do and are helped to set up activity groups.  These could be walking, table tennis, singing, crafts or keep fit groups.  The choice is theirs.  We do not dictate. Nothing is off the agenda.

Evidence from previous infectious outbreaks and pandemics had demonstrated the mental health and psychological effects of social isolation. Anxiety, stress, fear, frustration, and boredom have all duly been accentuated by COVID-19 related restriction of movement, loss of social connections and activities, fear of contagion, and concern about restricted access to basic supplies and services. Our Extra Time Hubs have never been more important.

For Lynn in Greenwich, Lee in Derby, Avril in Wigan, David in Lincoln and many other members across the country, the sense of community and togetherness of the Hub has seen them through tough times. Members tell us they feel valued, supported, have a purpose and have something to look forward to.

We have had to redefine “come together” and our staff and volunteers have telephoned, WhatsApped, Zoomed and written to more people than before COVID-19. We have leant tablets and created online cookery lessons, craft sessions, quizzes and exercise classes.  Our eleven Hub charities in Bolton, Burton upon Trent, Charlton, Crawley, Derby, Lincoln, Northampton, Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Sunderland and Wigan have been a “lifeline” for many.

Our experiences over the past 15 months have led us to reflect and to add even more flexibility to our model. The Hubs will not be limited to who can join us in person.  Members can take part from their own homes or from residential care settings.  Realising and embracing that means we can aspire to our Extra Time communities growing exponentially. We are no longer constrained by room sizes and transport links.

Extra Time Hubs are about people helping each other.  They are about building a social network, a community, of members who have one thing in common – the desire to connect. They are places of sharing.  They are places of kindness.  They are places of fun. We were asked at the start of our Extra Time Hubs journey what the signs of success would be.  Beyond membership numbers, survey results and health outcomes, our answer was laughter.

Still hearing laughter, in the midst of all that we have gone through, is our greatest achievement.

So we approach the future, and life beyond the pandemic, with renewed optimism and ambition.  We want to have 72,000 members at our 72 charities in a decade.  Who is to say we won’t?

Making Friends Thanks To The Rams IT Loan Scheme

Residents from a retirement living development in Derby are making new friends and forming new social groups thanks to Derby County Community Trust’s  IT loan scheme

The Community Trust has recently established a partnership with Claremont House, a new retirement living development in the city. Their residents have been welcomed on to a wide range of virtual session run by the Trust  thanks to the Rams providing them with the technology.

Many of the residents within the development live alone and socialising has been made more difficult over the past year due to lockdown measures. One of those residents is Lee, who has benefitted from the scheme.

The IT loan scheme offers participants the chance to borrow a tablet for up to 12 weeks, to allow them to get used to the technology, access our vast online timetable and use it to keep in touch with their own families too.

Sam Pritchard, Assistant Court Manager at Claremont House, said:

“Lee took part in the loan tablet scheme as he wanted to feel a part of a group and feel independent. Since joining the Extra Time Hub he has made new friends and been a key part of the group discussions and loves the quizzes. He used to have to be helped by his support worker to access the online sessions but now he logs in by himself with no issues.

“Moving forwards once the loan scheme has finished we will be working with Lee for him to purchase a tablet himself as he has taken so much from and this has had a positive effect on his self-esteem.”

Funded by the National Lottery and Sport England and backed by the EFL Trust the initiative aims to make a positive difference to the lives of semi-retired and retired peopl

Lee added:

“I feel my communications skills have improved and I feel more confident in talking to new people. Luke Wilkinson and Chris Russell run the sessions and they have been fantastic. My favourite part is the quiz, which is written and delivered by Tony who is a volunteer. I have tried a few sessions, but participating in the Extra Time Hub coffee mornings is my favourite.”

Derby County Community Trust’s Extra Time Hub sessions run each Wednesday, continuing online and also returning to Pride Park Stadium for limited numbers of participants.

You can find out more here.

Lincoln City’s ‘LNER Bear’ Makes Lots of New Friends

A restored teddy bear has been become the centre of attention at Lincoln City’s Extra Time Hub.  The bear’s owner David Christopher is been a regular member of the Extra Time Hub project at Lincoln City Foundation since connecting to the team during the Covid-19 lockdown period.  

Funded by the National Lottery and Sport England and backed by the EFL Trust the initiative aims to make a positive difference to the lives of semi-retired and retired people.

To help keep David socially connecting during the pandemic, David received a weekly befriending call, during which he enjoyed chatting to Foundation staff and telling stories of his hobbies and interests. Through these conversations the Foundation found out that one of David’s hobbies is restoring teddy bears.  So once restrictions eased a little, David joined one of the Health Walks the Foundation held at his local park.  As well as getting the got a chance to walk, talk and meet with people from his local area, David brought along one of his repaired bears. The bear, which David has had since childhood, proved to be a great topic of conversation. The bear was so popular that he now comes along each each week with David, has been renamed ‘The LNER Bear’ and is the official mascot at the Extra Time sessions.  

David adds; ‘I think everyone loves our little LNER Bear and I hope he raises a smile! Coming along to Extra Time Hub sessions certainly makes me feel happier, especially be able to get together with other people again.

David now attends the weekly Stadium Meet Up session at the LNER Stadium, and it is something he looks forward to each Friday. David’s walks with the Foundation have also inspired him to keep active more often, and he now walks from home to the LNER Stadium each week, as well as continuing to walk with friends he met around his local park.  

David says: ‘I love it at the Extra Time Hub, and it gives me a reason to get out the house each Friday and see some friendly faces. Through attending the Stadium Meet Up sessions I have met lots of new people and I look forward to being able to chat to friends. We talk about football, and being in the Stadium inspires us to connect with each other around football stories and memories’.  



“I lost my husband in the October and it was about five/six months after that I came to the Extra Time Hub.”

Lynn has been attending the Extra Time Hub with Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) for the past two years. Lynn was encouraged to attend the Hub by her friend, Gill, who was also a member.

Lynn was reluctant at first as she was grieving the loss of her husband, who had sadly passed away in October 2018.

“I lost my husband in the October and it was about five/six months after that I came to the Extra Time Hub. I went and I’m glad I did, because it has helped me,” explained Lynn.

Lynn was very thankful for the support she received from the Hub and CACT staff, most notably Special Populations and Older People Co-ordinator Matt Phillips.

“Matt, he’s been fabulous, he makes you feel good when you go and even on Zoom he makes you feel welcome and it has made me feel like I could mix with people. It was somewhere I could go because after losing my husband I felt quite lonely and on my own but going to the Hub made a difference, meeting other people. They listened if you wanted to chat and it was nice to meet other people.”

Lynn describes the Hub as a “second family”, explaining that “they make you feel so welcome and it did change me because I felt I wasn’t on my own, I could go and get out, because I was just staying indoors before and not going out at all and it just made a complete difference.”

Having been married to her husband for 44 years before his passing, Lynn reflects that she fell into a depression.

“I was lacking confidence because I did everything with my husband and when he passed away I just shut myself off from people. I had a bit of a hard time because it was sudden. I really went into a depression. Going to the Hub really help me come out of myself.”

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown impacted the delivery of the Extra Time Hub.

“I was lost, going there every week and then all of a sudden you haven’t got them to talk to, although I had Gill to talk to and Lynn & Matt if I needed to. You feel so lost without that and I had to do so many isolations through this pandemic as well and it’s not nice when you’ve got to isolate and you can’t see anyone.”

However, CACT quickly arranged Zoom calls for the Extra Time Hub participants so that they could stay in contact with each other.

“On Zoom we do Bingo, quizzes and just have a laugh. To see Matt, he makes you feel so good. It’s nice and I glad I came on it, to feel re-connected.”

By attending the Extra Time Hub, Lynn was introduced to another programme CACT delivers, Nordic Walking.

“It’s nice and it’s good because others from the Hub also go.”

Lynn has come a long way since she first attended the Hub, and she now has a larger social network of friends she can contact.

“It’s necessary if you’re on your own and if you want to meet people, the best way to do it is go to the Hub where you can meet other people and they will be open arms to you, I would recommend it. I would say do it because it makes you feel happy and they welcome you with open arms. I think I would have just been sitting indoors if I didn’t come to the Hub”.

Crawley Town have provided me with someone to talk to and the support I needed during the isolation.

Loneliness Awareness Week is more important than ever due to the past year with the pandemic as it has highlighted the importance of social interaction and mental health. 

During the pandemic at Crawley Town, but we have made it their main focus to support all participants, especially their Extra Time Hub members. 

Adrian joined the Extra Time programme during the pandemic after finding out about Crawley Town’s support network  through a mutual friend.  

“Crawley Town have provided me with someone to talk to and the support I needed during the isolation. Being able to talk to people keeps me connected and calm. It has also given me something to look forward to and focus on during the week. I have been able to also meet like-minded people and share support with everyone on the session.” 

Another person who has benefitted from the programme is Louise who has had some extra support with her mental health during the pandemic.  She says 

“It’s nice to be able to talk to someone weekly, otherwise I wouldn’t have been speaking to anyone through this period and it has really helped me mentally having someone to communicate with. It’s nice to know someone is there and will listen to me.  This programme is so important to me, if I am having a back week, I have someone there to talk to and support me with how I am feeling.”  

Throughout lockdown the team, at Crawley Town Community Foundation have been working hard to support everyone equally to ensure they don’t feel isolated in this difficult time. Keeping in contact with them and delivering virtual sessions has been the best form of support. 

 Click here to find out more.


Avril Makin “I’m extremely grateful to the Extra Time Hub as it dug me out of a very lonely hole.”

For 77 year-old Avril Makin, Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s Extra Time Hub provided her with a chance to reconnect with the things she enjoyed doing. Prior to the passing of husband Jim, in 2019, following a long battle with dementia, Avril spent her time caring and looking after the man she had been married to for 57 years.

Funded by the National Lottery and Sport England and backed by the EFL Trust the initiative aims to make a positive difference to the lives of semi-retired and retired people.

Having grabbed her attention whilst at Leigh Miners Welfare Institute, Avril became a regular member at the weekly session. She said:

“I lost my husband in July 2019 after a very long struggle with dementia and up to that point I’d had to give up most of my activities as I was always looking after him and taking care of him up until he went into care. Even when he went into care I was visiting him from 12pm in the afternoon until 10pm at night and I was gutted that he had to be there. When he passed away I thought I had to get back into some sort of activities because I had lost touch with everything.

“I came across the Extra Time Hub when I was in Leigh Miners one day doing something else. I’d happened to see it on the noticeboard, popped in to have a look and thought it looked good and I was hooked from there. I liked the fact there was table tennis, quizzes and other activities going on and I thought how great it was as it was something I wanted to get back involved with. I went on my own the first time and really enjoyed it and from then some of my friends have become involved too.”

“There is such a variety of activities on the go, we’ve had ball room dancing, scrabble, there’s just so much going on and you never knew what you’d be doing each week which gave you something to look forward too. The staff are just so vibrant, full of fun and during the pandemic they have kept us laughing. I’m very grateful to the Extra Time Hub as it dug me out of a very lonely hole.”

When sessions where postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members were been supported in a number of ways from staff including over 50 virtual coffee mornings, over 500 weekly phone calls and the delivery of 300 goody bags.

Avril says the support during the pandemic was very important.

“It was only three of four weeks from getting involved that everything got shut down with the pandemic. After Jim had gone, making sure I had something to do was my way of dealing with it so when the pandemic came that all stopped. I was frightened of going anywhere. But having the online sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday meant I did have something to look forward too, gave me some sort of routine and meant I didn’t feel lonely. The online sessions have helped me physically, mentally and emotionally and we have had such laughs together. The company of each other has been important particularly with not being able to go out and see your friends.

“With restrictions now eased I’ve been able to do crown green bowling, join in walking groups and most recently attend a picnic in the park which was fabulous. It’s giving me a focus again now as we are now allowed to do more things and has given me something to look forward to. Extra Time is hugely important to me and I’d hate it to finish because I love the structure to it and the variety on offer. It’s vital for us mentally, physically emotionally and socially and every part of our needs through this are met.”

For more information on the Extra Time Hub, click here.

Aspiring sports coach lands a role with Preston North End

The global pandemic of 2020 forced the public to adapt to a host of changes, many of which took some time to get used to, like going from face-to-face interactions to Zoom calls, interpersonal learning to digital learning, not to mention the fact that the majority of team sports & training sessions were suspended indefinitely. 

This was particularly challenging for James Galt, an aspiring sports coach who is deaf. James, who is 20-years-old, has a vast experience pertaining to football coaching, including his FA Level 2 in football and futsal and The FA’s Coaching Disabled Footballers Course.

Before the pandemic, James had also been gaining experience with both Preston North End Community and Education Trust and Lancashire FA, as a volunteer. James was also awarded UK Coaching’s Young Coach of the year award in 2019.

“I have been expanding my knowledge in other areas of football” said James, “I have been volunteering at both Wildcats & walking football at PNE FC. I had also assisted at their disability sessions at Preston College & PL Kicks sessions.” 

“As a deaf person, [the pandemic] has been hard, because it is not face-to-face & everything is on the phone or online and people wearing masks makes it difficult to lip read people too.”

Like many people who struggled throughout lockdown, James was out of work, relying on his parents to help before discovering a new opportunity via the Kickstart scheme at Preston North End Community and Education Trust. The position available was perfect for James, as a Community Sports Coach.

“I am aiming to improve my confidence in communicating with others & try to build on my previous experience in football coaching.”

EFL Clubs Provide over 150 Jobs in Kickstart Scheme Milestone

The EFL Trust have now engaged over 150 young people in paid work via the government’s Kickstart Scheme. ….and it’s just the start.

After the challenges of the last twelve months, young people between the ages of 16 and 24 have found employment at EFL Clubs and their Club Community Organisations up & down the country. 

The jobs provided under the Kickstart scheme are varied and offer opportunities for those involved to gain a first step on the employment ladder. Roles include Media & Communications Assistants, Graphic Designers, Football & Education Administrators, as well as Sports Coach Assistants all of which are all currently occupied by those involved.

Across the UK, the Kickstart Scheme has now created more than 200,000 approved jobs, with over 20,000 starts between 4,000 employers. 

“Via the EFL network, we are providing more than 1,300 Kickstart placements to young unemployed people at 65 EFL Clubs across the country as part of our commitment to supporting young people into employment – one of the groups hit hardest by unemployment during the pandemic,” said Mike Evans, CEO of the EFL Trust. 

“Through schemes like Kickstart, we are helping the next generation of workers to gain vital experience in a professional environment in positions from grounds maintenance to sports coaching and administration.”

Taylor Oakley & Hollie Gibson, both now working at Stoke City Community Trust, have spoken highly of the positive impact the Kickstart Scheme has had on their careers.

14/05/2021 For Features re Jobs Campaign: Hollie Gibson (left) and Taylor Oakley who are now working with the EFL via Kickstart. Pictured at the Stoke City FC Bet365 Stadium. Pic by Paul Tonge 07757 699788. Commission for The Sun.

“It’s great to see so many organisations getting behind the Kickstart campaign,” Taylor explained, “and I would like to thank Stoke City Community Trust for giving me an opportunity to follow my chosen career path.”

“I’m looking forward to developing as a coach and putting back into the community.” Hollie added, “The opportunity with Kickstart is brilliant for young people like me to help them take a first step into the world of work.”

Another great example of success in a Kickstart role is Henry Whitaker, who is working at Harrogate Town AFC. Henry said,

“I’ve wanted to be involved with sports media since I was about 13 years old and always liked the idea of working for a football club. I was very lucky to get the opportunity with Harrogate who have been on the up.”

Henry, despite finishing university with First Class Honours, like many graduates in the sports media industry found opportunities hard to come by – especially during the pandemic.

“I had been volunteering with Harrogate Town during the 2019/20 season on match days doing social content, which had put me in position to move into a paid role with the club if things went my way… 

“When the club won promotion last August, they said there’d be a lot more that needed doing and they needed a new role – someone to support the Media Manager via the Kickstart scheme.

My technical skills have developed by doing more and different things and I feel like I’ve grown quite a bit as a person since joining the club – having to take a lot more responsibility.  

I’m hoping the Kickstart scheme will put me in a good place to then move into a full time role. Whatever happens though, I can say it’s certainly given me the opportunity to get my foot in the door and showcase my ability, which is crucial when going into job interviews.”

Over 1,300 young people will have the opportunity to work in an EFL Club or Club Community Organisation as part of the government’s Kickstart scheme, all starting their roles before the end of 2021.

Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP said:

“This is a fantastic milestone and importantly, each and every single one of these jobs is a potentially life changing, vital opportunity for the new recruits – giving them the key skills, experience and confidence needed to thrive in work.

“As more take on exciting roles with clubs across the country, our Plan for Jobs is continuing to create new opportunities, supporting people to retrain and getting jobseekers into work as we push to build back better.”