Mick Brown, who has been a Crawley Town supporter for more than 55 years, credits EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hubs for making him feel like a kid again and giving him a new lease of life after attending for a number of months.
EFL Trust’s Extra Time Hubs are run at 11 EFL Clubs around the country and are funded by the National Lottery and Sport England. The Hubs are designed to bring retired and semi-retired people together by harnessing the power of their local football Clubs and ultimately aimed at combating loneliness and inactivity.
Before joining the Hub, Mick was mildly isolated and suffered from mental health issues. He believes the Hub has really helped him to boost his mood and find structure in his life.
He explained: “Extra Time Hubs has given me a focus and a structure once a week, the sessions really boost my mood, meeting and talking to new people has really helped me get my self-confidence back.
“As you get less young, rather than older, you can become very insular only thinking of yourself and your immediate family but with coming out and doing things like this, you get to see other people.
“Having a circle of people that you can meet once a week, has helped me to speak about issues and build new friendships, you can talk about things openly and help each other through it."
The Hubs harness the unique assets of the EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs) network to bring older people together and provide a range of activities that could benefit their physical and mental health. As a boyhood Crawley Town supporter, he also states that being involved in Extra Time Hubs behind the scenes at the stadium makes it even more special.
He adds: “As a fan you never get to be behind the scenes normally, but with the Extra Time Hubs, as it’s based at the stadium, you get the opportunity to see where the players go. It makes me feel like a kid in a toy shop.”
However, Covid-19 have obviously meant that the hubs can no longer meet and Mick admits coping during the government restrictions has not been easy.
He says: "It’s been tough, as I’ve been used to going out and about and seeing other people. I thought lockdown would get easier as time went on, but it’s got tougher for me.
"My children and grandchildren come to see us, which is always lovely but I don’t have any really close friends. The only contact with others has been through the Virtual Extra Time Hubs, which has kept me going – the guys at Crawley are like my extended family.”
Crawley Extra Time Hubs have been moved online, meeting twice a week since the lockdown began, as Mick explains: “On Tuesdays, I go into the Sporting Memories chat room at the Virtual Extra Time Hubs and on Friday we have the Virtual Extra Time Club.
"I really enjoy the Hub Quiz and I’m doing quite well on that. It’s given me something to look forward to and it’s a positive part of the day. Without a doubt, it’s kept me positive and given me a focus twice a week and I know that you are only an email or phone call away – it’s nice to have that backup.
“You never know what you’re going to get out of something unless you try it and I’m a different person since joining hubs. My confidence is returning and you guys have helped me.”