Burton Albion and Burton Albion Community Trust kicked off the #EFLCommunities social media chain on Twitter on Wednesday morning, setting the tone for the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Walsall to follow suit in showing the footballing world what they are doing to support the vulnerable members of their community during the coronavirus outbreak.
Matt Hancock, who is the Head of Community Trust at the Brewers, sprung into action along with his team, and have set up a working routine for members of schemes who would normally attend on a regular basis. He says that he is delighted that everyone is pulling together during this difficult time.
He said: “As a Community Trust, we have put a lot of plans and measures in place to be able to keep in contact and deliver services to our most vulnerable members of our community and part of the Burton Albion family.
“'Kicks', disability programmes, extra-time hubs, our cancer recovery programmes; those kind of participants need our help more than anyone and, without our intervention, these people are the ones that are the most likely to struggle.
“We have been in regular contact with them, having online sessions, trying to bring the sessions into a life on a digital scale throughout the days and weeks. Timetables have been adapted and staff have tried to mimic what they would do on a normal day, despite it being difficult in this current climate.”
The Community Trust have also been recognised for their work throughout Staffordshire which has prompted the local authorities to reach out to them during this difficult time, asking the club to become one of the lead emergency hubs in the area.
Hancock added: “The local authorities approached us a week or so ago to be one of the nine lead organisations across Staffordshire for community support, so Burton Albion Community Trust are the lead hub in East Staffordshire.
“At the same time, the club has become one of eight emergency hub sites, so the club has been made available to the local authority to house emergency packs to support those 1.5 million people who have been identified to be most at risk.
“I think there are about 3,000 in East Staffordshire, so all the packs and extra food that is needed will be sent to the Pirelli Stadium. So us as the Community Trust will be responsible for delivering the packs after they have been put together.”
With the words ‘inspire', ‘engage' and ‘educate’ being included in the strapline for the Community Trust, there is a real emphasis on building a better future for the people of Burton, and speaking with Matt reinforces that sentiment, one which he puts down to the unbelievable support he has had from the football club.
He said: “The club and the Community Trust work hand-in-hand in that respect, and to be asked to be one of the hubs has been fantastic. The club have offered rooms and spaces within the ground as well to the NHS so they can use those if they are at full capacity.
“We have a real trustworthy and positive relationship with the local authority and we have had for years, we deliver a number of services on behalf of the county council and I think they know at a time of crisis, that they can trust us that we can deliver.
“It is a real boost for us that the authorities have seen the work we have been doing over the years and entrusted us with more responsibility in that respect, especially at time like this where it is not just a local emergency but a national emergency.”
The key message throughout the work that is undertaken by the football Clubs and Community Trusts is simple: we’re all in this together and, with that, Matt is keen to make sure that the general public follow the advice given by the Government.
He adds: “Burton Albion are a club that will open its arms to the community almost immediately, the Chairman is a local man who is wanting to open the club up in a co-ordinated and controlled way, mainly because he doesn’t want to put anyone or anything at risk at the same time.
“You have seen across the country that there has been amazing amounts of work done by so many different football Clubs and community schemes - I don’t think anyone expected this pandemic but, with this, football Clubs and Community Trusts will always rise to something like this.
“It is great that that this is being showcased but I know and I am absolutely led by what the Government advice is: by staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.”