Walking Football with Colchester United Foundation has been a ‘Godsend’ for Lee.

Lee was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2012 and was soon referred to walking football by medical staff who support Lee with his condition.

His diagnosis soon began to impact a range of elements of his life, including his ability to work and socialise.

He explained: “I had to have a lot of time off work before becoming home-based, if I’m being honest, I lost a lot of confidence.”

As well as affecting Lee’s speech, he also has a right-sided weakness, symptoms of which include pins and needles and a leg drag, which are particularly evident during colder months.

Lee described the sessions as a ‘Godsend’ when outlining the changes he has noticed since he first started coming to the sessions, it is easy to understand why.

By his own admission, Lee had begun to wallow in his own self-pity, lost a lot of his confidence and was struggling with his mental health, finding the prospect of going out to be a daunting one.

However, walking football has provided Lee with a renewed self-confidence.

“It’s massively improved my social skills; I’ve met loads of great people on the programme and the coaches have been brilliant and a big support. I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s been a big benefit to my life.”

Although the session shows obvious physical benefits, for many and especially Lee, the improvements in his social and mental well-being far outweighs that.

He said: “Interacting with other people has played a huge part and a lot of social skills have come out of that, I think.

We’ve started going out on social events outside of the sessions, we’ve done some curry nights for example, and we’ve also taken part in tournaments at Ipswich Town whilst representing Colchester United, which we all enjoyed massively. I’ve probably met 40-odd new friends because of coming here. It’s a pleasure to spend my evenings with the people here (players & staff).”

With the support of his fellow participants, Lee is raising money for Multiple Sclerosis UK on MS Awareness Day (30th May 2024) by encouraging them to wear something orange.

Blackburn Rovers Men in Sheds initiative has given Fred his confidence back

After having a stroke, Fred distanced himself from the outside world, with a noticeable change in Fred’s confidence his wife gave him the encouragement to make a positive a change.

Fred’s wife, Hilda, became aware of the Men in Sheds project facilitated by Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, in late 2022 and encouraged her husband to attend a session, held on a Thursday morning at Ewood Park.

Initially Fred took a cautious approach to the group and wasn’t sure if it was for him. However, Fred continued to attend the weekly sessions and he admitted he was made to feel so welcome by the Community Trust staff and fellow participants, he wanted to make sure Men in Sheds was actively a part of his life.

Fred’s confidence continued to grow, and he has since started attending the Community Trust’s FIT FANS group to improve his physical well-being and he has completed a CPR online programme called Reviver.

Fred, aged 71, said: “Ilyas Patel (Men in Sheds lead) was so good to me from the start and explained how the project helps men.

“Due to my lack of confidence, my brother-in-law joined me for my first session, and I felt welcome straight away.

“I had recently suffered a stroke and I spent a lot of time at home doing nothing. The doctor said I needed to get out and get involved in an activity.

“I was apprehensive about joining as I felt I would be doing plenty of physical activities and my body wouldn’t let me. However, Ilyas made it easy for me and said we are not just a gardening club, we are much more than that.

“Not all the lads do physical work due to their health, so I join them, have a cup of tea and a chat.

“Men in Sheds has been a great thing for me as my mental health has not been the best. My confidence has improved, I have started doing more things at home, and it is great knowing I have somewhere to go every Thursday and meet my new friends.

“I would honestly be lost without it after what I have had to go through.”

Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s Men in Sheds lead, Ilyas Patel added: “Fred has gone through an awful lot and all he wanted was to try and get back to his normal self. He feels Men in Sheds has helped him and with the support of the team he feels he is now on the right track.

“Men in Sheds is all about helping and supporting men who might suffer from mental health, loneliness or just want to get involved in a new hobby and make new friends.

“It is so important to raise awareness about Men in Sheds and groups alike to ensure as many people as possible can access if they need support. Alongside this, it is important to celebrate the success that participants have had with the programme, so they feel valued and encourage others to take part.

“Mental Health Awareness Week is an amazing opportunity for people to find out more and raise further awareness.”


FIT BLUEBIRDS provides turning point for Stephanie

Stephanie was approaching her 49th Birthday and was looking for ways to improve herself physically and mentally. After receiving an email from Cardiff City Football Club, which highlighted the new 12-week FIT BLUEBIRDS programme, she signed up immediately.

Prior to joining FIT BLUEBIRDS, Steph was suffering from PTSD, she was attempting to return to university to complete her masters in youth work and was planning for two big family events; her daughter’s wedding and her son’s 21st birthday.

However, she was struggling with her mental health and found herself in a very dark place.

“No matter what I did I just couldn’t look forward to anything, I couldn’t plan anything, I had no self-worth, and I didn’t know who I was anymore”.

When she arrived At Cardiff City Stadium for her first FIT Bluebirds session, Steph was immediately reassured to be joining a group of women who were in a similar situation to her, and made her feel that she wasn’t on this journey alone.

Everyone in the group was from different backgrounds, different ages and different abilities but they were all there for the same reason; to get fit and learn how to develop and maintain lifelong healthy habits.

“It was lovely to meet new people who were in the same situation as me – they found it hard to find the time to exercise and diet or didn’t have the confidence to exercise and diet”

The free 12-week programme gave Steph and her fellow FIT BLUEBIRDS the opportunity to learn in a safe and welcoming space supported by Community Foundation coach, Matt Jones.

“Matt didn’t dictate what we should or shouldn’t eat, he added it in gradually like he did with the exercise. We weren’t judged on what we did every week”.”

As the weeks progressed the group learned more about topics that would help support them in leading a healthier and more active lifestyle and covered subjects including the importance of sleep, food groups to alcohol consumption, and increasing their daily step count.

For Stephanie, it clicked! The information she was learning each week was sticking in her mind and made sense in a way that it hadn’t before – it was so much more than setting a goal weight or a calorie target, it was simply about learning how to maintain weight loss, develop healthy eating habits and improving the mental health of the individuals.

Ultimately, the focus was on how participants felt.

“Matt never put any pressure on us, he just gradually builds up the sessions each week and we just began to feel improvements. Whether it was weight loss or inch loss or being more conscious of what we were eating. For me it finally gave me a sense of belonging.

I cannot imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t had the opportunity to do this because it just gave me a massive sense of self again and gave me the opportunity to make changes that have made me feel physically and mentally better.”

Since completing the programme Stephanie has a renewed outlook on health and well-being. FIT BLUEBIRDS has equipped her with the knowledge to continue her positive journey and has even inspired her to become a volunteer with Cardiff City FC Community Foundation!

“By volunteering I can combine the two of these things and hopefully make a difference to other people’s lives. I’ve said many a time, the slogan for the Community Foundation is ‘Our Club Changes Lives’, but for me, FIT BLUEBIRDS saved my life.”

Extra Time Hubs with Wigan Athletic Community Trust offers Dennis a new lease of life after Parkinsons diagnosis

For Dennis Heaton, living with Parkinson’s disease has brought a number of challenges.

But six months after becoming involved with Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s Extra Time programme, the retired welder has a new-found confidence which has seen him reach new heights by going rock climbing at the weekly session.

Running through the Wigan Athletic Supporters Project – the initiative aims to tackle social isolation amongst older people including Dennis – who reveals the positive impact it has had on his life.

“Having Parkinson’s disease has curtailed me a little bit”, he said. “It got me down a bit you know, it makes life slower and obviously more difficult and I worry about what people will think.

“But after going to my doctor I was told about the Extra Time programme by Katie – my local Community Link Worker. On my first day I was a bit nervous about meeting new people because you wonder how they’re going to react to you.

“I was made welcome straight away with a cup of tea, a biscuit, a game of dominoes and straight away I just fitted in like a glove.

“It’s really boosted my confidence; I feel a lot better and in fact I love coming. I joke with my family that on a Tuesday I’m going to my youth club.

“There’s always something to do whether that’s a game of pool, or the air hockey, I enjoy the walking football, badminton and I’ve even done rock climbing. There’s always something and there’s always somebody who’ll come and sit with you.

“I look forward to it every week and would say if anyone is thinking of coming then just come, enjoy it and give it a try and you’ll be surprised at how much it can change your life.”

Rock climbing at the session – which runs at Wigan Youth Zone every Tuesday between 1pm-3pm – is one of many activities on offer to members and for Dennis was something he was keen to have a go at.

He added: “I really enjoyed [rock climbing], I didn’t think I could do it, but I just had a go, if you don’t have a go you don’t know, do you?

“I had a go and next think I knew; I was up at the top. I flew up!”

Katie Ramsdale, the Community Link Worker for Wigan Central, who referred Dennis, says it’s wonderful to see the difference in him.

She said: “When I first met Dennis, I realised from meeting him on the first off, that he was quite socially isolated and quite low in mood.

“He had no confidence and he’d isolated himself because of his medical condition that he has. We spoke about social groups that could possibly be good for him to attend which is how he ended up attending and enjoying the Extra Time session.

“The progress he has made since then has been absolutely amazing from him not wanting to go shopping with his wife or wanting to walk the dog.

“Now six months down the line he’s got a new set of friends, he’s climbing the wall and doing loads of activities that he probably thought he was never going to have an opportunity to ever do.

“It’s been wonderful being part of that and seeing that progress.”

In January Dennis was recognised as the Trust’s Communtiy Hero as part of the English Football League Community Weekends. The nationwide celebration recognises the work of football clubs and community trusts in their local communities.




Remember the Rovers Visit Senior Training Ground

Ahead of Blackburn Rovers fixture wit Ipswich Town, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s Remember the Rovers group made a special visit to the Senior Training Centre.

The group, which has been running since 2019, brings people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia together weekly in the Darwen End Stand at Ewood Park and discuss their memories of following Rovers over the years in a social setting.

Now regularly attended by more than 40 people each Wednesday, the group have been on a number of Football related trips including to the National Football Museum and Deepdale.

The group have also organised visits with other club’s charitable organisations such as when they linked up with a group from the Manchester United Foundation and took part in a ground tour of Old Trafford as well as having lunch and a Q&A with former United and Rovers duo David May and Wes Brown.

In addition to this, they recently went on their first ever away day together in Rovers’ recent draw with Middlesbrough and met up with Middlesbrough FC Foundation’s Team Talk group.

Last Friday 35 participants had the privilege of visiting Blackburn Rovers’ STC where they enjoyed a tour of the facilities before they watched the First Team be taken through their paces by John Eustace’s coaching staff.

The group also received an audience with Blackburn Rovers CEO Steve Waggott, and ended the visit being able to part in a Q and A with Eustace and his coaches Matt Gardiner and David Lowe.

Gordon, a Remember the Rovers participant, remarked on the visit by saying “I’ve really enjoyed the day and to come inside the (STC) building and see the facilities has been tremendous.

“Blackburn Rovers is such a big part of life, and I never miss a game so to get the opportunity to speak with John Eustace was great!”

John Eustace added “As a professional footballer or coach you are very privileged and have a huge level of responsibility to those that support the club.

“Wherever I’ve worked I’ve tried to instil the idea of being a family and the most important thing for me is the fans and the players are one, so it was great to meet the group who are a part of a fantastic organisation.”

Proud to deliver Joy of moving programme in milestone year

The EFL Trust is proud to celebrate 10 years of delivery across England and Wales of the Ferrero social responsibility programme, Joy of moving, with its network of Club Community Organisations (CCOs).

As the impactful programme enters its milestone 10th year, Joy of moving has inspired over 550,000 children to get moving through play and delivered over 2.5 million hours of learning in hundreds of schools.

With more than 70,000 children set to benefit from the programme this academic year via 27 CCOs, Joy of moving is based on a unique methodology, developed by Ferrero alongside independent experts.

Joy of moving encourages children to get active using play as the foundation, whilst helping them to develop key skills, such as motor coordination, creativity, and social skills.

In the UK, the unbranded Joy of moving programme consists of two elements: the Move & Learn project and the Joy of moving Festivals, delivered in schools.

Charlie Cayton, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Ferrero UK, said: “We are incredibly proud to be celebrating ten years of our Joy of moving social responsibility programme.

“The programme, delivered by our amazing partner and their fantastic Club Community Organisations, inspires children to get moving while playing and having fun.

“We know that this approach is key to get children engaged and I’m delighted to be able to say that together we have been able to reach over half a million children since our initiative began.

“Joy of moving has gone from strength to strength over the past decade and we’re excited for the programme to continue its success as we look ahead to the future.”

Adrian Bradley, Head of Healthier Communities at the EFL Trust added: “More than half (53 per cent) of children do not meet the Chief Medical Officer guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day, according to Sport England findings*.

“Our Club Community Organisations (CCOs) are at the heart of their communities and have been integral in the development and delivery of the Joy of moving programme designed to inspire active lifestyles in children, teaching children how to enjoy moving through play, and to help them develop positive habits for adulthood.”

To learn more about the Joy of moving programme visit www.efltrust.com/joyofmoving

Swansea City AFC Foundation’s FIT JACKS participants collect 50kg of food for local foodbank

Swansea City AFC Foundation’s FIT JACKS participants collected 50kg of food for the Swansea Community Fridge foodbank to mark the end of their training programme.

The participants brought 110 items to their final FIT JACKS session for the local foodbank, having planned the donations with participant Layla Lucas, who manages Swansea Community Fridge.

The food was delivered to Swansea Community Fridge, which has seen a rise in demand during the COVID pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living crisis.

Layla was delighted to see her fellow participants come together to support the campaign, having suggested the idea to the group.

“It’s absolutely amazing, I thought we might get three or four tins here, but to get as much as we did is great, especially with the cost-of-living crisis,” said Layla.

“At Swansea Community Fridge we take in surplus food from supermarkets and other places, and we distribute it to the community to prevent waste going to landfill.

“I thought it would be nice for the group to have a collection for an organisation that organises food, it didn’t have to be mine, but after running it by the Foundation they were happy to take part and thankfully everyone got on board.

“This will help us feed up to 200 people with our food parcels each week, it’s a huge benefit, some weeks we don’t get much food from supermarkets so this will help supplement it.”

To find out more about your nearest FIT FANS programme,  please contact your local Club using the list below.

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    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.”

    Sky Blues in the Community’s Dementia Active tackling the difficulties those with dementia face.

    Football Clubs are helping to tackle is Dementia. In England, it is estimated that 675,000 people have dementia. The majority, although not all, of these individuals are over 65 and have other underlying health conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on everyone but for those with dementia it was really bad feel like really bad could be something different to really emphasise it.. Social isolation meant a significant impact to daily life and a disruption of normal routines and care for over two years. Research has shown that extended isolation is linked to worsening cognitive ability, as well as an increase in mental health issues including loneliness and depression. Even when people were able to slowly return to their pre-pandemic routine, for older adults with dementia, a return to the ‘old normal’ has been harder to manage due to a decline in cognitive health.

    Recognising that those with dementia were disproportionately negatively impacted by the pandemic, Sky Blues in the Community worked with Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust to identify the local need. Consequently, Sky Blues in the Community (SBitC) received funding from the Warwickshire Social Impact Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund to deliver ‘Dementia Active’.

    Dementia Active is delivered by SBitC in partnership with Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust. Therefore, the programme offers support from SBitC’s Senior Coaches as well as staff from CWPT’s specialist secondary care Dementia service. The aim of Dementia Active is to tackle social isolation and increase physical activity, which in turn promotes self-care, increases support networks, increases cognitive stimulation, and supports mobility.

    Another key focus is ensuring participants benefit by socialising. The programme encourages conversations, create welcoming, positive, relaxed environments for participants from across the social spectrum and age ranges to come together and make friends. Moreover, Dementia Active supports carers to benefit from respite, socialise with other carers and develop a support network. At a Dementia Active session, there is a menu of weekly activities. These are multi sports, physical activities which help participants relax, have fun, socialise and include warm-ups, “feel-good” exercises, drills, skills, games followed by football, cricket, badminton, basketball, table tennis, bowls, indoor archery, cool downs etc. They are tailored to ability and mobility to ensure everyone can participate.

    The parents of one participant commented “My son is 20 and has Dementia as a result from a neurological condition. We found that there were no services in the community for him, so it was just so lovely to hear about this Dementia active group where he could come along and engage in the bits that he liked. We came along today and it’s amazing, it’s really good. He’s played badminton, he’s been bowling, throwing bean bags, he loves the archery! Sky Blues in the Community are so supportive and they engage with him 1-2-1.”


    FIT FANS with Plymouth Argyle has given Michael the ability to be active with his children.

    Before attending the FIT PILGRIMS programme, Michael’s biggest motivator was his kids and being unable to engage in simple physical activities with them left him with feelings of anger and sadness.

    However, the 12-week programme with Plymouth Argyle Community Trust has transformed Michael’s physical and mental health.

    He explained: “Now, I am happier, I’m happy with my progress, happy with my mindset, happy with how I feel overall with my health and fitness because its improving.”

    Average weight loss statistics for the FIT FANS programme are impressive and exceed those of many other programmes. On average women lose well over 3kg and men over 5.5kg by the end of the 12 weeks. We also have evidence that lifestyle change, and weight loss are sustained over the following 12 months. More than 90% of men and 85% of women lose weight during the programme with many losing a clinically significant amount. Our data shows FIT FANS helps people to increase physical activity, and reduce sedentary time, leading to weight loss, a significant reduction in reduction in blood pressure, and improvement in self-reported mental wellbeing measures.

    Throughout the programme, Michael lost 13.5kg in weight, and has not only seen the benefit in his physical performance but has also learnt that nutrition is a key factor in living a healthy lifestyle.

    He said: “I’m much  more active throughout the day, averaging 7 miles each day. I’m more conscious of what I am eating and looking for better options rather than the quick, cheapest option that tends to be the worst.”

    With such great results, that have benefitted his children too, Michael has engaged with other programmes the Trust run to ensure he remains active, all whilst having fun.

    To find out more about your nearest FIT FANS programme,  please contact your local Club using the list below.

      * Please Choose Club

      Your information will be sent to a member of staff from your chosen club who will call or email information about FIT FANS. You are not committing to joining FIT FANS just to receiving further information. Your data will not be used for any other information without you consent. Please see our Privacy Policy for more details on how we manage your data