Throughout the COVID pandemic Football Clubs and their charities have continued to support their communities, making 940,000 food deliveries to those in need, tackling loneliness by making over 280,000 calls and doing thousands of garden gate visits.
Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the number of EFL Club stadia and community venues being used as vital COVID-19 vaccination centres, testing sites and training hubs, as part of the League’s ongoing commitment to supporting the NHS in the fight against coronavirus.
Mike Evans, CEO of the EFL Trust comments,
“We are so proud of how EFL Clubs and our network of Club Community Organisations are, once again, stepping up to help their communities however they can. We have football stadiums and community facilities being used for testing and vaccinations, staff conducting COVID tests, marshalling car parks at vaccination and testing centres, arranging appointments and transporting vulnerable people to get their vital vaccinations. These are all activities that they weren’t previously trained to do, but they have adapted impressively and are providing the services that their communities now need.”
Clubs including Plymouth Argyle, Bristol City, Oxford United, Huddersfield Town and Colchester United to name but a few, have transformed their stadiums into NHS vaccination centres, delivering immunisations to key workers and some of the most vulnerable people living in our local communities.
Organisations like St John Ambulance are also making use of the large open-spaced facilities at EFL stadiums, to train volunteers to assist in the vaccination programme. Since the start of the year, Stevenage FC has welcomed more than 30,000 local people to participate in the St John Ambulance training.
With so many EFL Clubs situated at the heart of their community, their stadiums have already played an important role since the pandemic began in providing easy access to COVID-19 testing for those living locally, with drive-through and walk-in testing sites in place at Charlton Athletic, Burton Albion, Bristol City, Swindon Town, Blackburn Rovers, Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End to name but a few.
Staff from various EFL Clubs and their Club Community Organisations have also received relevant training to support with the testing and vaccination programme – from carrying out COVID-19 testing to assisting with the transportation of local residents to vaccination sites.
Here are some examples of what is going at Clubs in our EFL communities around the county:
Charlton Athletic: Charlton Athletic Community Trust’s health team is working in partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s public health team to run a Community hub which is responsible for co-ordinating a huge range of COVID response services. This includes lateral flow testing, with the Trust responsible for the co-ordination, management and delivery of two testing sites in Greenwich where many thousands of tests have been conducted so far.
The Hub is also heavily involved in the vaccination effort, supporting the bookings of vaccinations in Greenwich and arranging transport for vulnerable older residents to attend their vaccinations.
Burton Albion: The Pirelli stadium has been running a drive through testing programme since April 2020. This was predominately swab testing key workers who have displayed COVID symptoms or who live in a household where someone has symptoms. In November the Stadium started to be used for the lateral flow testing that helps establish how embedded the virus is in the community. Recently staff from both the Football Club and Community Trust have completed training to permit in-house lateral flow testing at the Pirelli Stadium.
The Trust is also managing the coordination of staff and volunteers involved in the vaccine roll out for residents of East Staffordshire alongside NHS and Public Health staff. Over 20,000 doses have already been given out as part of this programme, which is set to continue until at least the end of March 2021.
Peterborough United: Peterborough United’s Foundation have been supporting local residents and GPs with the vaccination roll out. The Foundation staff have been transporting local residents to and from vaccinations and are providing staff to help marshal car parks, handing out relevant leaflets and assisting in the vaccination recovery areas to ensure patients are waiting the required 15 minutes post vaccine as a safety measure. Staff are now fully trained to support and carry out testing as and when required.
Nottingham Forest: Forest’s Community Trust have been providing staff to support the coordination and operations of two vaccination centres. In January, these staff provided over 60 hours of volunteering which will rise to 144 hours this month.
Bristol City: Since the start of the lockdown back in March 2020, there has been a mobile COVID testing centre set up at Ashton Gate Stadium. More recently the Stadium has become one the first seven vaccination hubs across the UK and had distributed more than 20,000 vaccinations since it was set up in January.
Swindon Town: Foundation Park, Swindon Town Community Foundation’s facility, was brought into operation as the first asymptomatic testing centre in Swindon.
Blackburn Rovers: Blackburn Rovers Community Trust have transformed the Darwen End Stand of the Ewood Park stadium into a Community COVID testing hub and are running a Rapid SMART testing centre. Operated by trained staff from Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, local residents can visit the community hub testing centre, with no appointment necessary.
Doncaster Rovers: One side of Doncaster Rovers stadium has become an NHS test site for pre-op patients. This takes them away from hospital and therefore relieves pressure on the NHS. The other side of the stadium is being used is a COVID vaccination centre. Club Doncaster Foundation is heavily involved in coordinating the recruitment of volunteers for the effort in partnership with other local organisations.
Preston North End: PNE’s Community Education Trust are supporting the City Council’s testing programme. Both Club and Trust staff have been trained by the military to undertake the lateral flow test. This will enable the testing site in the City Centre, which is designed to provide the test for employees of essential businesses who are still operating, to remain operational in the coming weeks when the military are going to be stepping back from their involvement.
Tranmere Rovers: Tranmere Rovers work closely with Wirral Council and has been part of a humanitarian approach to COVID-19. The Club has continuously been a testing site when required since September 2020 and has also provided trained stewards to the testing sites and emergency food hubs when the council did not have the required staff in terms of qualifications, experience and volume.
Colchester United: At Colchester United, Club and CCO are working side by side, but in different ways to support the vaccination effort. Vaccinations are taking place at Colchester United’s Jobserve Community Stadium, whilst as part of the community organisation’s outreach work, CCO staff are volunteering at the local primary care centre supporting the vaccinations effort.