Adrian Bradley: Tackling COVID-19 related Loneliness

2020 and 2021 have obviously been particularly challenging years. The EFL Trust and our network of 72 club community organisations have adapted existing programmes and launched new support services to respond directly to the pandemic.

With the support of funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, we’ve been able to reach and support 35,000 older people at risk of chronic loneliness.

People in the clinically vulnerable groups who were ‘shielding’ particularly needed our support. They were likely to become isolated and to suffer the effects of deteriorating mental wellbeing. Anxiety, stress, fear, frustration, and boredom have all been accentuated by COVID-19 related restrictions of movement, loss of social connections and activities, fear of contagion, and concern about restricted access to basic supplies and services.

Many club charities developed a telephone support offer during the initial lockdown period.  Many then experimented with remote delivery, often online but also group telephone calls and deliveries of resources to people’s homes to enable them to participate in activities from home like arts and crafts packs, exercise equipment and plants and seeds to grow. This actually meant they were able to engage with people who may previously have struggled to access face-to-face support.

We know from our data that we have made a difference. People overwhelmingly reported feeling less anxious, less lonely and felt happier about life as a result of the phone calls, socially distanced visits or postal support they received.

A football club charity is not always the organisation people think of to ask for help. However, the last twelve months prove that the magnetism of football works successfully in this context and we have been particularly successful with reaching older men.

Access to IT and the confidence or know-how to use it were a barrier for some people, but have not stopped us. Several of our club charities have loaned IT equipment and provided IT clinics or support over the phone. Retaining digital provision into the future will help to ensure there is a service for those who are anxious, nervous or not able to return to face-to-face activities.

Our next challenge is to emerge from the pandemic by helping clients to move from dependency on individual phone calls and visits to taking part in group sessions once they feel comfortable (whether they be online or face to face).

Our Extra Time Hubs are a key part of our ambition, an expanding national movement in which we bring people together in their retirement years to socialise, do things they enjoy and feel better connected. The effects of being physically and socially active can be profound.

We warmly welcome last week’s publication of Emerging Together: the Tackling Loneliness Network Action Plan. We have been delighted to be part of the government’s plan to tackle loneliness during COVID-19, working together with over 80 organisations from across sectors.

The plan, published on 8th May, sets out the actions that members of the Network and government are taking forward to support a connected recovery from Covid-19. Key actions include:

  • Bringing together funders interested in social connection to share learning and look for opportunities to align and join up funding.
  • Creating volunteering opportunities that build connection, particularly for people experiencing loneliness.
  • Exploring a range of opportunities to tackle digital exclusion.

We have big plans for the role we can play in the lives of older people and we intend to take the lessons we have learned during the pandemic to create a brighter future beyond it.


Adrian Bradley

Head of Health and Wellbeing

Adrian Tallon: This year has impacted the opportunities and aspirations of our nation’s young people

After such an ‘unprecedented’ year that has impacted the opportunities and aspirations of our nation’s young people, the roadmap out of lockdown was welcome news…with the end of the restrictions hopefully now in sight.

The good news of a ‘way out’ has been offset by some stark data that has been released recently showing that young people are still faring worst, and facing a slow recovery.  With this in mind, it has been great to see the appetite of our network of Club Community Organisations (CCOs) to take this challenge on by offering Kickstart and Traineeship opportunities – key elements of the Government’s ‘Plan For Jobs’ – along with the CCOs offer of study programmes, apprenticeships and Higher Education.

This month’s report by Youth Futures Foundation found that young people have been particularly hard hit by a slowdown in hiring since last year.  The rollout of the Kickstart Scheme, which funds job placements for 16-24 year olds for 6 months, will help combat this issue and EFL Trust are working with over 70 Football Club Community Organisations to offer 650 funded placements across England and Wales through the Scheme.  Earlier this month, we ran workshops with our network of Kickstart employers, and it was great to hear the wide range of roles that are being planned for young people across the Football Clubs and the Community Organisations, including within the media and marketing teams, academy operations, community coaching, grounds keeping, youth work, and much more. Our first Kickstart placements are up and running and already we are hearing about how well-supported the young people feel, and how excited they are for the six months ahead.

To underline our commitment to supporting youth employment, the EFL Trust are proud to have signed the Good Youth Employment Charter; a pledge that we will follow the principles of good youth employment, including providing opportunities and developing talent, and we urge all of our partners on the Kickstart Scheme to do the same. A special mention to Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme for being the first to do so…

While there are some great opportunities for young people closer to the job market, it’s vital that those who were not engaged in education or employment before the pandemic hit are not left further behind due to the growth in youth unemployment numbers. Last week we were delighted to announce our Youth Futures Foundation funded ‘EFL Trust – Training Ground’ programme, which will support these young people to overcome the barriers they are facing, through a programme developing their physical activity, mental health awareness and resilience, and building the skills that they will ultimately need in order to move into good quality, sustained employment or further education.

February’s Labour Market Statistics briefing note from IES identified growth in employment in the Health and Care sector, and the EFL Trust have been working closely with NHS Employers and a number of individual NHS Trusts to create employability programmes focussed towards roles where there will be vacancies, preparing young people to work in the sector. Although in its infancy, this partnership work has the potential to be really powerful, with the EFL Trust and its partner Club Community Organisation engaging with stakeholders across the community to recruit participants on to an employability programme with jobs in mind. With programme delivery launching in March and April, I’m looking forward to seeing some impactful provision and powerful individual success stories.

While the challenges are clear to see, we are grateful to partner organisations that are supporting our plans over the coming months, including DWP and Youth Futures Foundation and most of all to the delivery staff within Education & Employability departments at our CCOs who are going to be delivering these programmes at as high a quality as ever.

We believe, more than ever, that our network have a key role to play in the ‘roadmap’ back to normal – remember that? – and tackling the youth unemployment challenge head-on is first on our list.

Louise Williams: The EFL Trust is proud to be part of tackling the nation’s obesity crisis

We know that in the UK, 63% of adults are overweight and that countries with high levels of overweight people, such as the UK, have seen the highest death rates from COVID-19 and we are encouraged to hear the announcement that the Government will be investing £100 million into tackling obesity and supporting people to lose weight.

The last 12 months have been a difficult time for those who are overweight. The emerging evidence that obesity and excess weight is a major risk factor of serious illness or death from COVID-19 while many weight management services were forced to stop, gyms and leisure facilities closed, and community support facilities temporarily paused has created an ongoing issue for individuals, local communities and the NHS.

At the EFL Trust, we recognise this and as part of our ‘Stronger, Healthier, More Active Communities’ strategy we pledge to support people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, access the support they need, and enhance the quality of life for those living with health conditions such as obesity and obesity-related conditions like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

One of the ways we are currently achieving this is through our EFT Trust FIT FANS Programme. Currently being delivered across almost half of the EFL Trust network, FIT FANS uses interest in football to attract adults aged 35-65 to a 13-week healthy lifestyle programme delivered by coaching staff at their local professional football club charity. Despite the disruption of the past 12 months, we have seen some staggering outcomes in terms of improvements in weight loss, physical activity, diet and psychological wellbeing.

  • Over 1,600 individuals have accessed the programme
  • Average weight loss for males in our first cohort was 6.2kg with 17% moving to the BMI weight classification below, significantly reducing their risk of obesity related conditions
  • These results were also reflected in the female cohort where we see 24% achieve a clinically significant weight loss of at least 5% of their starting weight
  • Inactivity in males shifted from 42% to 15% and in females from 47% to just 13%.

It is an aspiration of the EFL Trust to see this programme delivered across the whole of our network, which will enable us to reach millions of people who would benefit from making a positive change towards a healthier lifestyle and decreasing their risk of poor health and in turn reducing the burden on our NHS and health services.

The next cohorts of FIT FANS is due to commence this spring, to find out if your local club is involved or to find out more about the programme please visit


Jack Beetham: My apprenticeship at the EFL Trust has been life changing

‘Build the Future’ was the theme for National Apprenticeship Week last week, encouraging people to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career.

The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan opened up the week saying, “Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn while you earn, opening up new and exciting career paths that can transform lives.”

This has certainly been the case for me.  Before I started at the EFL Trust in 2018,  I was doing a BTEC in Business Studies at Cardinal Newman College and had no idea what I wanted to do…. I was just living for the weekend. I felt lost and this lead to me going down all the wrong paths in life, I was slowly going off the rails and as a result my mental health was suffering massively.

I had reluctantly applied to University, knowing I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, just because it seemed the ‘normal’ thing to do after college. Thankfully I saw the opportunity at the EFL Trust as Apprentice Administrator and was successful with my application. The Administrator apprenticeship was absolutely perfect for someone who wasn’t quite sure what they wanted to do yet. The role involved such a variety of work across all departments and so I developed a huge range of skills and got a really good understanding of how the organisation works. As my apprenticeship was coming towards an end, an opportunity came up in the Marketing team, as they were looking to take on an apprentice. I had done lots of work for Marketing and I really enjoyed it and so I jumped at the opportunity when it came up!

When I started at the EFL Trust, what stood out straight away was how nice and friendly everyone was, I felt part of the team straight away and this helped me settle into working life perfectly. Going straight into working life in an organisation like this gave me purpose each day and really helped me to establish routine with my life and fitness. This massively helped me with getting my life back on track! Not only did the routine help, but being around such genuine people all day in a professional but friendly environment really helped me mature and grow so much as a person. I really would say my apprenticeship has been life changing. I dread to think what my life could be like now had I carried on living the ‘student life’ over the past few years!

I feel that in school and college young people are pushed towards the standard University route. If anyone is not sure what they would like to do in life, I would urge you to avoid following a set path just for the sake of it and look into an apprenticeship at an organisation like the EFL Trust!

Mike Evans: 2020 was clearly an extraordinary year that brought unparalleled challenges….so what next?

2020 was clearly an extraordinary year that brought unparalleled challenges to us all. Everyone has been affected by Coronavirus in some way, and I send my thoughts and condolences to those who have, and continue to, experience loss and tough times. 

From a work perspective, the challenges last year have been unlike any other and I spoke to many people about the dangers of fatigue and burn out.

As we moved into 2021 and were met with another national lockdown, at the EFL Trust we are making sure that we focus on the importance of our people and their wellbeing. We are introducing more ways to ensure that we promote positive work life balance and task driven success in our environment.

We started 2021 by checking and challenging our ‘Build Back Strategy’ that we produced, alongside our long term strategy, in response to the pandemic. Over the coming days, we are sharing our vision for the next 6 months with our network and ensuring alignment and support strategies are positively received by our most important team.

The response of our teams throughout 2020, supported by the Board, to re-engineer businesses, re-imagine programme delivery and identify and secure new opportunities to support our communities is something I am extremely proud of. None of this has been easy and tough decisions around furlough, cost controls and salary freezes have had to be made within our organisation, to ensure the sustainability of our charity.

During the first working weeks of 2021, the team have announced the vital role that the EFL Trust, Clubs and Club Community Organisations will be playing in providing jobs for young people via the Government’s Kickstart programme. Over 500 young people will be able to apply for vacancies across our Clubs and CCOs and be placed in jobs including access to training for a minimum of six months. Our first ‘kickstarters’ are now in place at Luton Town and Harrogate Town, with more vacancies being filled and advertised across the country as the year goes on.

Including Kickstart, over the last eight months we have secured new income streams of £7 million through our MHCLG Faith, Race and Hate Crime project, the DCMS Loneliness project, NCS School Support, a two year extension to our Ferrero partnership and the Youth Futures Foundation pilot. We also worked very closely with Sport England to access emergency funding directly to our CCOs.

At the time of writing we are finalising contracts for 2021 NCS delivery and the numbers look positive, ensuring that we can continue our legacy of offering the highest quality experience to young people through our programme. The review of youth services that the Government is carrying our next spring is something we will be working on as a key priority. We see this as a major opportunity to position the network at the heart of Government’s thinking for the future.

We entered 2021 confident but not complacent, and remain acutely aware that factors beyond our control will continue to play a large part in our planning and delivery.  We will need to continue being agile and flexible and recognise that there are likely to be many ongoing challenges.

We will continue to show the passion and dedication that we did in 2020 in order to overcome the challenges that 2021 presents and we look forward to a positive year, committed to creating the strongest communities we can.