Twenty one-year old Middlesbrough supporter, Owen Swift, has been attending fixtures at the Riverside Stadium as a season ticket holder for over 10 years.
During his time as a supporter, Owen has provided the club with support and advice for disabled fans attending fixtures and has worked closely with Level Playing Field in recent years.
Here, he talks about how important matchdays are to him and what he’s missing most about visiting the Riverside Stadium.
“You don’t realise until something is gone how much you miss it,” he said. “With coronavirus meaning we can’t go to matches, I’ve started to realise how much I should’ve appreciated being able to go to games.
“Every week, getting ready for the match, you feel something different. I used to go to matches with my friend, we’d either get dropped off or get the bus into town and go into the stadium early. I’m also quite well known round Middlesbrough so I’d bump into a lot of people before the game.
“That is an important part of matchday – catching up with other fans. It’s part of the matchday sequence seeing people and having a chat about the last match or what’s gone on during the week, and now I miss that feeling and seeing other people."
Owen lives just 10 minutes away from Middlesbrough’s stadium and admits it’s been hard for him not to attend matches.
“We take our family dog for a walk around the stadium every other day and it’s nice to be able to see the Riverside but it’s a massive shame I can’t be in there,” he added.
“As I live so close, I can hear them testing the audio and it’s brought me to tears hearing that on occasions. My mental health has been affected by not being able to attend fixtures more than I’d have ever thought and I know I’ll feel differently and appreciate it more when I can safely attend a match.”
Earlier this year, Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation was awarded EFL Community Club of the Year for the North East and Yorkshire region.
Its community strategy, with a core principle of ‘making a difference by being different’, has allowed them to improve community cohesion, health provisions and education for over 35,000 people in one of the most deprived areas of the country.
Owen, who has been recognised by the club for his community efforts, says it’s important to recognise the work Clubs and their respective Club Community Organisations do in their communities.
“The MFC Foundation delivers a lot of work in the community, I was talking to them about an online quiz night the other week but I’ve seen players taking part in community activities and in the current climate that’s a massive boost for anyone to see them.
“Middlesbrough have been keeping in touch with fans throughout this time and I think that’s massively important. It’s vital they keep that link so that when we can return we can all celebrate together.”