Over recent weeks, there has been an increase in the number of EFL Club stadia and venues being used as vital COVID-19 vaccination centres, testing sites and training hubs, as part of the League’s ongoing commitment to supporting the NHS in the fight against coronavirus.
Football Clubs including Plymouth Argyle, Bristol City, Oxford United, Huddersfield Town and Colchester United have transformed their stadiums into NHS vaccination centres, delivering immunisations to key workers and some of the most vulnerable people living in our local communities.
Organisations like St John Ambulance are also making use of the large open-spaced facilities at EFL stadiums, to train volunteers to assist in the vaccination programme. Since the start of the year, Stevenage FC has welcomed more than 30,000 local people to participate in the St John Ambulance training.
With so many EFL Clubs situated at the heart of their community, their stadiums have already played an important role since the pandemic began in providing easy access to COVID-19 testing for those living locally, with drive-through and walk-in testing sites in place at Charlton Athletic, Burton Albion, Bristol City, Swindon Town, Blackburn Rovers, Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End to name but a few.
Staff from various EFL Clubs and their Club Community Organisations have also received relevant training to support with the testing and vaccination programme – from carrying out COVID-19 testing to assisting with the transportation of local residents to vaccination sites.
Gavin Baldwin, Doncaster Rovers Chief Executive, said: “Club Doncaster and Doncaster Rovers prides itself on being a club at the heart of our community and it has been a real honour working so closely with the amazing NHS staff in helping to roll out this life-changing vaccination programme.
“Our Foundation has been running incredible projects to help and support the most vulnerable in our community through these tough times and our players and staff have visited some of those who have been isolated by this pandemic to deliver food hampers.
“It has been a privilege to be able to provide a support service to the people who need it most throughout the various lockdowns and it’s wonderful that we can do even more by being the place many of them are coming to receive their vaccinations.
“As well as offering support to NHS workers who are administering the vaccinations, many of our staff have been volunteering their spare time to help where they can. What’s evident from the work we are doing here at Club Doncaster is the importance of pulling together as a community and the positive impact this has on people’s lives.”
Kirsty Cavanaugh is Head of People and Culture at Doncaster Rovers and has been coordinating the volunteering programme run alongside the local council. Speaking of her experience, Kirsty said: “I was overwhelmed by the number of staff and people from the local area who have volunteered their time to help with the testing and vaccinations being carried out at the stadium.
“Some of our staff members are now finding themselves undertaking very different roles to help in the fight against coronavirus – there are stewards who are now helping with testing, and admin staff offering support to elderly people coming to the stadium for their vaccinations.
“With each person who comes to get vaccinated here, it creates a feeling of hope among the volunteers.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the footballing community has played a pivotal role in supporting the needs of communities nationwide. Through EFL Clubs alone, there any been 940,000 food deliveries made to those facing food poverty, 285,000 calls made to people isolated from family and friends in a bid to tackle loneliness and mental health issues, 30,000 PPE items dispensed, and more than 6,200 NHS prescriptions delivered.