United In Support For Our Armed Forces Community

EFL Clubs and their Community Organisations have been paying their respects and tributes to the Armed Forces community.

Grounds across the EFL stood still this November to observe two-minute silences prior to kick offs, also welcoming military personnel, players wearing poppies on shirts and wreaths laid on the pitch.

The Armed Forces Community are a huge part of EFL communities with more than 1.8m people in England reporting they had previously served in the UK.

Many Clubs and their Community Organisations (CCOs) across the EFL provide a range of support programmes for veterans of all ages, helping them with mental health challenges, and education and employment opportunities.

Here’s just a flavour of the community engagement that’s took place…

As part of the EFL Week of Action (6th-10th November), Preston North End Community & Education Trust hosted a football match with mixed teams of veterans and refugees/asylum seekers.

An celebratory occasion where football was used as a platform for integration, where everyone told their emotional stories before the match took place, including those from the PNE Forces programme.

The initiative includes football and social sessions designed to allow forces members of both past and present a way to keep active while forming new relationships with like-minded people, all the while benefiting their mental and physical health.

Many CCOs used EFL Week Of Action – a dedicated week that showcases the outstanding work within the 72 EFL Communities – to highlight stories of veterans they have supported.

Including Leeds United’s Sam Byram visit to the Club’s Veterans Group, and Baz Cooper who hit rock bottom, and spoke about how Club Doncaster Foundation helped him get back on his feet via their Fit Forces programme.

Over 50 members of the Armed Forces community attended Blackpool FC Community Trust’s NAAFI Break session, alongside Blackpool FC’s COO Jonty Castle who is also a veteran.

Sheffield Wednesday FC Community Programme took two veterans from their Owls In Force project into local primary schools where they shared their experiences. Take a look at their video here.

The CCO in Morecambe, a town with a long history supporting the Armed Forces community, even have a dedicated Veterans Support Officer among their ranks.

Veterans, serving personnel and families of veterans from across Lancashire unite at the Mazuma Stadium monthly, via a Morecambe FC Community Sports-run coffee morning session, where they have the chance to engage, seek out agency support and rediscover camaraderie.


“We have a duty to look after our Armed Forces and their families, and we and local partners, have a proud tradition of doing just that.

“Our coffee mornings have gone from strength to strength, including a newly-established volunteer group to work on more community projects. We felt it was right to introduce a dedicated role which has been gratefully funded by the Veterans Foundation to allow us to grow our support offer.

“We are also Bronze Award recipients of the Ministry Of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme working towards the Silver Award in due course.”

Stuart Glover, CEO of Morecambe FC Community Sports

The EFL and the EFL Trust earlier this summer – ahead of Armed Forces Day – invited members of the military and the Ministry of Defence to their joint signing of the Armed Forces Covenant.

In signing the covenant, both organisations seek to uphold the covenant’s principles, recognising the value serving personnel, reservists, veterans and military families bring within the organisation and community by pledging their ongoing support to them.

“Members of the Armed Forces make a significant contribution to our country and we understand the issues that veterans and their family members face.

“We are proud to make a commit to share opportunities with the Armed Forces family, using football to bring people together for the greater good, and in an environment where they are treated fairly and equally and with an opportunity to thrive.”

Cathy Abraham, CEO of EFL Trust


“I served 10 years in the infantry with my local regiment. Throughout this time, football was a big part of army life – the connection between football and the armed forces has been going for a long time.

“Upon leaving the army I found it really difficult to settle back into civilian life but thanks to football, it helped me get to where I am today. I gained my coaching badges and got a full-time role with Stockport County Community Trust.

“We’re now looking at piloting our own programmes for the Armed Forces in the local area, where I can use my personal experience to help others from a similar background to me.”

Mark Ward from Stockport County Community Trust, who served as a solider and was awarded the Military Cross in 2010

Like Morecambe and other CCOs, many provide weekly support to local veterans using their stadiums as welcoming environments.

At Cardiff City FC, their Community Foundation’s Armed Forces Veterans Hub is a social isolation project that supports veterans who are at high risk of social isolation and loneliness. Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan has a veterans population of around 27,000 and 8% suffer from mental health issues including depression and anxiety.

Weekly online and face-to-face sessions provide structure and support for people to get together, connect and take part in a range of activities that improve physical and mental wellbeing.

Blackpool Community Trust go beyond Bloomfield Road and use their own facility at the Aspire Sports Hub as well as their popular weekly walk where gentle routes around the scenic grounds of Stanley Park are enjoyed.

“When we talk about armed forces veterans, typically we think of people aged 60 – 70 years of age but it is absolutely not just that age group. The people we are engaging with at Blackpool Community Trust are in their 20s and early thirties.

“While our provision primarily focuses on football activities, we also deliver support for things like housing benefits and mental and social health for each veteran and their family members.”

Ashley Hackett, CEO of Blackpool Community Trust

EFL in the Community Newsletter: Issue Four – Out Now!

The latest issue of our EFL in the Community newsletter is out now!

The publication showcases a selection of the invaluable activities carried out by EFL Clubs and their Club Community Organisations (CCOs).

Taking place every day across England and Wales, EFL Clubs and CCOs collectively continue to make a huge difference and positive impact on our communities while improving people’s lives.

In this latest edition, we highlight the value of the Armed Forces community following the signature of the Armed Forces Covenant, and the inclusive culture of Club Doncaster Foundation that has given transgender woman Charlie a ‘fresh start’ in her life.

In addition, the newsletter promotes the ongoing support for young people with disabilities taking place across the network, the new Sports Business Management degree being delivered by the EFL Trust in partnership with the University of South Wales, and Wrexham AFC’s community ticketing initiative.

Also there’s an array of images from the successful summer soccer camps delivered by CCOs up and down the country.

Headstart makes expansive headway in North West

Thousands of Year 6 pupils across the North West of England, making the transition into secondary school, will benefit from a mental health programme involving several EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs).

Since 2022, the EFL Trust and four CCOs have supported dozens of schools and hundreds of pupils across Lancashire and South Cumbria via a pilot project called Headstart, thanks to funding from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity after successfully applying for an NHS Charities Together Grant.

The EFL charitable arm is delighted to announce, during Mental Health Awareness Week (15th – 21st May), the programme – which has supported almost a thousand pupils since it began – will be delivered by a further seven charities.

The CCOs will work in schools, providing one to one or group support, in either a classroom environment or delivering sessions, like yoga and mindfulness.

Fleetwood Town Community Trust, Preston North End Community and Education Trust, Morecambe FC Community Sports and Accrington Stanley Community Trust each have a Mental Health Transformation Officer, all of whom aim to reduce strain on the NHS by targeting those children currently accessing or are at risk of needing to access children’s mental health services.

Blackpool FC Community Trust, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust and Burnley FC In The Community have joined the Lancashire cohort of CCOs delivering the programme.

In addition, Bolton Wanderers In The Community, Foundation 92, Rochdale AFC Community Trust and Wigan Athletic Community Trust have come on board thanks to funding and support from Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership, GreaterSport and local authorities; Trafford Council, Wigan Council and Bolton Council.

In 2020, one in six (16.0%) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017.

Adrian Bradley, Head of Health & Wellbeing at the EFL Trust said:

“Our Club Community Organisations are well connected within schools across their communities, and we’ve seen some wonderful and impactful examples during our pilot year of delivering the programme.

“We’re delighted that we’ve received further funding for more Club Community Organisations to deliver this programme across Lancashire and Greater Manchester, and reach and support as many children as possible, making that milestone transition in their lives from primary to secondary school.”

Caption: ITV Football visited Larkholme Primary School in Fleetwood to witness EFL Trust Headstart Programme delivered Fleetwood Town Community Trust.