Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s award winning Men in Sheds group visit Senior Training Centre

Today is International Men’s Day.

Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s award winning Men in Sheds group visited the Senior Training Centre earlier this month to meet the first team squad.

The group were given a tour of the facility, and watched the first team prepare for their Championship match at home against Preston North End.They also had a Q&A session with Rovers’ Tyrhys Dolan, with the discussion focused on mental health and well-being.

Tyrhys was very open with the group about the challenges he has faced in his life, following the passing of his best friend Jeremy Wisten in 2020.Likewise, the Men in Sheds group shared their own experiences of how they have lost somebody close to them, and how it had an impact on their mental health.

The Men in Sheds project is run in partnership with Darwen Council, with the aim of supporting men in the community to discuss their mental health and develop new skills in a safe environment.

The group has 20 plus members signed up, and they all meet up on a weekly basis, and have developed close friendships courtesy of the programme. In 2022, Men in Sheds won the Health and Wellbeing Awards – Group – at the Community Volunteer Awards at King George’s Hall.

Bharat Parmar, who regularly attends in the Men in Sheds programme, said: “It was nice to speak to a professional footballer about what he has gone through and it is not easy to talk about.“Tyrhys is only 21 years old and being able to talk about what he has gone through, and he is like an ambassador now to raise awareness, it is fantastic what he does.

“It is great for the Men in Sheds group to be involved with this visit to the Senior Training Centre. Unless people talk about mental health, it will never go any further, so it is important we do talk.”

Each year, on the 19th November, International Men’s Day celebrates worldwide the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. The purpose for International Men’s Day is to also raise awareness for the multiple issues that men face.

Ilyas Patel, who runs the Men in Sheds programme for Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, said: “It was a privilege to have the opportunity to visit the senior traning ground last week and be able to watch the players train.

“The group absolutely loved it and were so excited to have their shirts signed and to get to meet the players. Meeting with Tyrhys Dolan and him talking about his struggles was inspirational and really helpful to the group.”


Extra Time Hubs with Wigan Athletic Community Trust has been a lifesaver for David and his wife Carys

Extra Time Hubs with Wigan Athletic Community Trust has become the highlight of David and his wife and carer, Carys’ week.

Before joining the sessions, David struggled with illness and was in and out of the hospital regularly until he, unfortunately, had to have his leg amputated. Shortly after, David was also diagnosed with mixed dementia.

With Carys taking on the role of his carer, the pair were adjusting to David’s condition and his new life in a wheelchair. While dealing with the adjustment, they found themselves increasingly isolated and simply unable to meet new people or engage socially.

That was until they were referred to the Extra Time Programme by a Community Link worker to help them re-engage with the community while also giving Carys a chance to relax and unwind while knowing that David still had support around him.

The pair have become a staple of the Extra Time Hub at Wigan Youth Zone ever since joining their first session. The session has become “the highlight of their week” while enabling them to build new friendships, increase their mobility and gain a new lease on life.

The Extra Time Programme, originally created by the EFL Trust and funded in partnership with Wigan Athletic Supporters Club, hosts weekly Extra Time Hubs at Wigan Youth Zone and Leigh Miners with the aim of tackling loneliness and social isolation amongst our elderly community.

The Hubs enable retired and semi-retired people make the most of their free time and enjoy doing the things they want to do. With friendships, support and being the socially active forefront of the Hubs aim, participants decide what they wish to take in with various activities on offer from quizzes to walking football.

Speaking about her enjoyment of the sessions, Carys said:

“Before coming to the Extra Time Hub, he [David] was very poorly for a couple of years, in and out of the hospital, and then unfortunately, he had to have his leg amputated.

“And then he was diagnosed with mixed dementia. We were just getting used to the fact that he was now in a wheelchair, but we weren’t seeing people. It was just impossible to do it at that particular time.

“A Community Link worker came to the house and suggested that we come here. So she made a referral to Christine [WACT Extra Time Hub Activator], and within a week, we came here.

“From the minute we came in, you could sense there was a lovely atmosphere. We were greeted by Christine, smiling. We were introduced to different people, and we’ve been treated as we hadn’t been for quite some time, to be honest.

“And my husband has found that he can move around and do things, there’s space here for him to do things and he’s really enjoyed doing the activities.

“As far as my husband and I are concerned, it’s been a lifesaver.

“It’s the highlight of the week for us. We’ve been making new friends with people as well.

“Everybody’s so friendly. They can’t do enough to help us.”

Her thoughts were echoed by her husband David, who added:

“I’m used to doing things myself, and I can’t do them now, so I get a bit frustrated, but I try and let it go and carry on doing what I can, and I’m enjoying myself, really.

“All the staff, they’re helpful, they’ll explain everything,

“I enjoy myself, and I look forward to coming every Tuesday, and I feel better for it.”

Adrian Bradley the EFL Trust’s Health and Wellbeing lead, explains, “With Extra Time Hubs we set out to do something different. Activities for Older people tended to be small coffee morning or bingo sessions. We want to create a social community of people in their retirement years who meet regularly to socialise and to do the things they enjoy, not what we tell them they should enjoy. We focus on the social side of the hub and help people to feel better by reducing their social isolation and loneliness. By getting people more socially active we nudge them towards more a physically active lifestyles – it’s health by stealth.”

Barnsley FC Helping Hashim Show How Disability is not a barrier to Success

Hashim is furthering his education and improving his employment prospects through his Football Club. Hashim also has a goal to help others enjoy the benefits of sport. Hashim is studying for a Foundation Degree in Community Football Coaching and Development with Barnsley FC’s charity, Reds in the Community.

Hashim has been deaf all his life having contracted an ear infection at just a few months old. But, for him it is not something that negatively impacts his life, a mindset he wants to pass onto others.

Operating through the University of South Wales (USW), the two-year degree course is run in partnership with the EFL Trust in order to develop the required skills and experiences to operate as a professional coach or work in community sport. The degree offers work-based learning with Reds in the Community and allows learners to tailor their interests and gain practical, hands on experience.

Through this, those students studying at Barnsley can continue get hands on experience of the whole range of the Clubs charity’s work. This method of learning really appealed to Hashim especially as he would get to be involved in Reds in the Community’s excellent disability sports programme.

Having started the USW course during the COVID-19 pandemic. This presented more challenges for Hashim with so much work taking on-line. However, he always stayed positive and did everything he could to remove any barriers and be the best he can be.

He explained: “Learning online was difficult for me. As a Deaf person, I prefer to work face to face. I had to work doubly hard compared to my hearing peers. USW and Reds in the Community have been so supportive at every step. The lecturers check in to see if I need anything and to let me know what support is available to me. I just try to get on as normally as I can – if there is a barrier, I put the effort in and try to break it down.”

Hashim is also a talented footballer and also aspires to succeed in his playing career. He currently representing Farsley Celtic Deaf FC, who have just won the English Deaf Football Challenge Cup, and the England Deaf Team. However, it is clear above all Hashim wants to provide the support, guidance, and inspiration to younger hearing-impaired individuals to ensure they can succeed, without their hearing impairment becoming a barrier.

He explained: “I think about younger Deaf people coming through and I would advise them to work hard, try and be the best they can be, always thinking that next step. If there’s any barriers, find the support available. I’m happy to help anyone who wants to get in touch.”



Peter Walker: The journey that the Peer Researchers have been on is wonderful and transformational

Following the one year anniversary of delivering the Peer Action Collective Programme, we spoke with Peter Walker, Project Manager, who tells us more about the project’s impact. Read more

Colin Bennett: Why International Day of People with Disabilities is Important

Today, Friday 3rd December, is International Day of People with Disabilities (International Day of People with Disabilities (

But for people with disabilities, it’s not about one day and then move on to the next special day. It’s every day, week, month, all year. Every year.

And that’s why days like this are so important. The day should be seen as a platform to highlight the challenges and barriers to people with a disability and even more so, amplify the great work that goes on. Let’s keep the conversation relevant, front and centre and ensure our work is the norm.

I am very proud to be the Project Manager for the EFL Trust’s Every Player Counts project which has been funded by Wembley National Stadium for the last 5 years. By the end of the 5th year our network of Club Community Organisations (CCOs) will have delivered football to nearly 15,000 participants, enabling and empowering people of all ages to be active and play.

And it’s more than just play. We know that being active is good for people’s mental and physical health, their social inclusion and for them to have a community connection. We have participants who previously wouldn’t leave their house but now have started jobs, apprenticeships, college courses. We are hearing from teachers that participants are more outgoing; we are hearing from participants that the one thing they will not miss is their football; we are seeing a pride that participants can represent their club; we know the importance of the strength of the network’s community work.

Throughout today we are highlighting that work in just some of our CCOs to showcase what we do but also to celebrate the participants and their families. Disability should not be seen as a difference. Because in fact over 80% of disabled people acquired disability later in life. Fewer than 20% were born with disability.

Think about that for a moment.

Of the people with a disability fewer than 20% were born with their disability.

The work continues every day in our communities and through the EFL Trust CCOs I see first-hand these great stories. Hopefully you can support the amplification of the message and I look forward to continuing the great work each and every day.

Dylan Cook: Why I joined the EFL Trust Youth Forum

My name’s Dylan, I’m 21 years old from Wolverhampton and currently a third-year student studying Football Coaching, Development and Administration at the University of South Wales. I’m the newest member of the EFL Trust Youth Forum.

Read more

Adrian Bradley: This is a tipping point for our nation’s health

This year National Fitness Day is happening at a tipping point for our nation’s health.  As we enter our second winter during the pandemic, it has never been more important to help people to stay as active as possible.

Only last week research was published revealing that people seeking NHS help to lose weight during the pandemic are on average five pounds heavier than those starting the programme during the previous three years.

This extra weight, gained as people lived through the COVID pandemic, means people are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that weight gain of one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, can increase your risk of diabetes by around 8%. Excess weight is also linked to a greater risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms. You are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 if you live with Type 2 Diabetes.

This is a trend we are seeing on our award winning FIT FANS programme. Men were on average 2.9 kg (6 pounds) heavier before they started the programme this summer (June 2021) than the average starting weight in the winter before the pandemic (January 2020). The same pattern is seen among women.  The average weight at the start of the programme has risen by 2.4kg (5 pounds).

FIT FANS works. The 12 week programmes offers guidance and support on eating, drinking, sleeping and being more active in daily life. Our data shows FIT FANS helps people to increase physical activity, reduce sedentary time, leading to weight loss, a significant reduction in blood pressure and improvement in self-reported mental wellbeing measures.

Our average weight loss statistics are really impressive and exceed those of many other programmes. On average women lose 3.31kg and men 5.51kg by the end of the 12 weeks.  We also have evidence that weight loss is sustained and continues to increase over the following months after the end of the course.

FIT FANS is now offered by nearly forty clubs across the EFL network.  During the pandemic, despite all the restrictions and disruption it has caused, we have supported nearly three thousand people. We are now building on the investment we have received from the National Lottery and more than a dozen local authorities across the country have now chosen to invest in making FIT FANS part of their weight management offer.

National Fitness Day has the potential to inspire but also to deter.  For many people the term “fitness” is off putting and conjures images of Lycra clad fitness instructors in exclusive gyms. We understand that, for many football fans, fitness is an elusive state and something they see on the pitch in the stadium but not in the mirror. We believe that fitness is a relative concept and is about being fit for life. That will mean different things to different people.  We know that the first steps towards being more active are often the hardest but that every little helps. We have support in place for people who want to make a change.

There’s been a lot of attention given to online initiatives to get people active and they do have their place.  However, we remain convinced that bringing people together gives the chance for people to meet people lime them.  The support and solutions they give each other are key to making change last.

FIT FANS groups go through the experience together.  They encourage and reassure each other and are the better for it.  We all need to start somewhere and FIT FANS could be the place for you.  With courses starting all over the country this month and again in January, click here for more details.

Nicol Meredith: This job found me and I was made for it

A job that was made for me and a real chance to change the opportunity for all talented girls in Football… 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?

Dominik Stingas-Paczko: Celebrating 10 years of NCS and its wider impact

The EFL Trust is soon to be celebrating 10 years of delivering NCS (National Citizen Service). Since the first pilots were delivered in the summer of 2011 with only a handful of Delivery Partners involved including Community Organisations at Barnsley FC and Sheffield Wednesday, 600,000 young people have taken part in NCS gaining priceless life experience and completing over 15 million hours of community action raising awareness of mental health and homelessness, tackling issues such as the environment and loneliness and redeveloping local spaces for the community to enjoy.

In a recent impact study conducted by NCS Trust the outcomes of the programme showed that:

  • 70% of participants felt more confident about getting a job in the future
  • For every £1 spent, NCS gave back £3.49 of benefits to society
  • 78% of participants felt more positive about people from different backgrounds to themselves after attending NCS (2018 summer programme)
  • 23% of young people who participated in NCS during 2019 were on Free School Meals. This compares to 14% of the comparable 16-17 year old population
  • Almost two in three NCS participants say they are more likely to help out in their local area after coming on NCS.

Read more here.

We know the impact of the NCS programme has been significant, and in some cases, life changing for young people and their communities.

But the wider impact of NCS is also highly significant….

The programme has created job opportunities, upskilled our network of Club Community Organisations and allowed the EFL Trust to tackle other societal issues such as hate crime and social cohesion.

NCS has created local jobs for local people…

NCS has created jobs locally for people who have a deep understanding of both the area, the people living within it and the societal issues that they face. This summer 2021, the NCS programme alone will create in the region of 900 seasonal roles across the EFL Trust network, with the majority of these positions going to young people aged 18-24.

NCS Graduates of the programme show extreme loyalty to the principles they have learned and will often come back to the programme to volunteer or work, thus creating the next generation of youth workers. In fact, almost two in three NCS participants (in 2018) said that they are more likely to help out in their local area after coming on NCS.

A fantastic example of this is Leonie Hudson, NCS Graduate in 2014 and now full-time employee at Reds in the Community (Barnsley FC). By her own admission, before NCS, Leonie felt withdrawn, unmotivated, was unsure what to do after school and desperate to get out of Barnsley. After doing NCS, Leonie felt reconnected with her local community and was desperate to give back to NCS by volunteering on the programme. Leonie’s enthusiasm for NCS led her to be a key member of the EFL Trust’s Regional Youth Board and she was also key note speaker at EFL Trust’s NCS Conference.

Leonie believes NCS and the opportunities she has had since doing NCS have had a big part to play in her successful application to go to University in Leeds, admitting that her personal statement was almost entirely made up of her experiences through the programme.

“Not only has NCS given me five years of memories and experiences I’ll never forget, but I completely believe it got me into my dream university.”

NCS creates Community Partnerships...

NCS has also seen the development of national, regional and local partnerships across the country, some of which didn’t exist before. Our Delivery Partners have been able to strengthen their links and embed themselves in local schools beyond mainstream including special educational needs and independent schools.

The EFL Trust has been able to build a number of key partners such as those with First Group Bus Company and Northern Rail, which has allowed us to offer an even more inclusive programme as young people can now travel for free when doing NCS in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Initially piloted in Yorkshire and the Humber, these partnerships have now spread to other areas of the country, giving more young people the opportunity to do NCS. These opportunities are also now being included in other Youth Programmes delivered by the EFL Trust.

Our partnership with UK Parliament has not only given young people a wider knowledge of UK politics but it has also has opened doors for the EFL Trust to engage with MPs across the country and in doing so making them aware of the wider work done by the CCO network.

NCS has promoted growth…

The EFL Trust, supported by NCS Trust funding and funding from a variety of other organisations, has grown from an organisation of only 10 in 2008 to over 60 in 2021. Many EFL Trust team members who began their journey with the EFL Trust working on the NCS programme have now gone on to play significant roles within the wider organisation and bringing with them a flair for change and a firm belief in the power of young people in our communities.

Claire Streeter joined EFL Trust in 2019 as an NCS Performance Managing Partner in Yorkshire & the Humber. Claire has been involved in NCS for 8 years starting as a volunteer in 2013 with MFC Foundation’s (Middlesbrough Football Club) summer NCS programme. As a result of Claire’s volunteering and enthusiasm Claire was appointed as Project Worker with MFC Foundation, leading her to become their Social Inclusion Manager supporting over 500 young people through the NCS programme in Middlesbrough. Now working within the EFL Trust, Claire is using her wealth of experience to support other NCS Delivery Partner to offer young people an unforgettable experience on NCS. Claire is also a key member of the EFL Trust Staff Advisory Forum and has assisted in shaping EFL Trust’s new equality, diversity and inclusion approach.

NCS Tackles Key Societal Issues…

The work done throughout our network for NCS assisted us to secure some regional Government funding for the MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) Faith, Race and Hate Crime project, aimed at bringing communities together and encouraging understanding and cohesion. The programme, named ‘Communities United’ aims to increase community cohesion by bringing people together to increase understanding of the local community and cultural differences and similarities. This programme has since engaged with 73 families across the North West increasing positive attitudinal change in social cohesion (16% increase), social trust (11% increase) and social capital (25% increase). The families that participated were from different ethnic backgrounds, sharing different beliefs and they all came together to successfully deliver a social action project in their community.

Overall, the development of and improvement of infrastructure both within our CCOs and within their teams has undoubtedly been significantly improved by the decade of NCS within our network. The requirements in terms of governance structure and staff training to ensure that teams are perfectly placed to deliver on the programme have led to significant developments in staffing particularly across the network and also within the EFL Trust.

With such strong teams, the resultant negotiating power of the organisation to ensure funding filters to EFL communities most in need has been a powerful model and given that over 10 million people live within a 10-mile radius of an EFL Club – many in deprived areas with over 70% of individuals claiming Universal Credit – the impact is significant.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly significant for our nation’s young people and as we emerge from the pandemic, the current Government review of youth services is both well timed and vital.

As we celebrate ten years involvement with NCS, we look to the future with optimism, knowing that our learnings and organisational improvements over the past decade place us in the strongest position possible to support the young people of our country as we emerge from the pandemic and for them, in turn, to support their local communities.


Dominik Stingas-Paczko, Head of NCS