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