Sarah Urquhart
Friday 14 August 2020

Forest Green Rovers are joining 31 EFL clubs as part of a major new programme to tackle loneliness among older people.

The English Football League Trust are proud to be receiving £810,000 from the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to support EFL Club Community Organisations in 32 deprived locations across England with the aim of connecting more older people at risk of loneliness.

A recent study from the Office National Statistics (ONS) showed that 2.6 million adults reported that they felt lonely "often" or "always" whilst 7.4 million adults reported their well-being had been affected through their having felt lonely in the past seven days.

The EFL Trust network has a history of working with people across all generations and have a track record of connecting the people who need it most.

Mike Evans, Chief Executive Officer of the EFL Trust comments, “We are proud to have been chosen to be part of this vital mission to support the older people in our communities. We see this as an endorsement of the great work that our CCOs have done in this area and we know there is so much more that our network will achieve. Our Health and Wellbeing team are working hard to match the expertise of our network to the communities where it is most desperately needed and we continue to work with DCMS, NHS, Public Health England and other agencies to ensure we can all build back better after COVID-19.”

Last year the Trust launched the Extra Time Hubs movement, to engage retired and semi-retired people to combat loneliness and inactivity.  Funded by Sport England, through the National Lottery, the first pathfinder Hubs are run at 11 EFL clubs. FGR Community are hoping to join this movement in the near future.  

Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to ensure that older and more vulnerable fans and members of the community are not isolated have stepped up with groups meeting online, WhatsApp groups being set up and regular phone calls being made by Community teams, players and managers, to check on people’s wellbeing. Our Clubs and CCOs have also made doorstep visits to check in on community members across the country.

Clive, 71, an FGR season ticket holder received a call early on in the pandemic and responded on social media by saying: “That’s why I was so appreciative of your call during early lockdown asking if we were ok. That’s what makes good people and shows that FGR are a true caring club.”

Andrea, 71, said: “To start with lockdown was fine, it wasn’t that different to my normal life as I am used to a quieter pace of life being retired. But as things progressed and there appeared to be no end in sight, my spirits took a big dive and as I have caring responsibilities as well, I found it all rather overwhelming. So, by having someone to talk to face to face over the garden gate who was sympathetic, positive and understanding this has really helped me keep going and manage my unsettled feelings.”

The new grants will allow expanded activities across the country under the campaign ‘Let’s Tackle Loneliness Together’, include befriending phone calls, online social groups, a pen-pal scheme, social action from young people taking part in NCS and socially distanced ‘garden gate’ conversations to emerge across EFL communities and reach the people who need this vital support right when they need it the most.

The EFL Trust will also be one of a number of charities and business across the UK who will join the government’s Tackling Loneliness Network, leading the charge against Loneliness. The group will explore ways to bring people together to build strong community spirit, with a focus on groups at particular risk of loneliness and will work to continue these initiatives in the future.

If you are feeling lonely or know someone who would like to be involved in the Tackling Loneliness Project please contact community@fgr.co.uk or ring 07419333746