Football clubs step up help for communities as virus bites

‘WARTIME SPIRIT’

At the other end of the Football League pyramid, at the bottom of League Two, Stevenage are doing all they can to help provide for and protect those at risk.

Owner Phil Wallace has provided the resources for a community care line that will go live on Monday. Local residents over 70 will be able to call to have food delivered, prescriptions collected or even just to chat at a time when they may be forced to self-isolate.

“How do they get their food if they can’t go out?” Wallace said.

“We’ve got kitchens we are not using, we’ve got lads who can’t play football. I can make food, take food to people using the staff we’ve got, we can pick up prescriptions, we can provide a helpline for them.”

The financial ramifications of a shortened season for clubs in the lower leagues are grave, but Wallace is more concerned with the health and well-being of those in the community.

“Every single club at every single level talks about being a community club,” he said.

“This is a wartime spirit. When you get into this battlefield situation, which is what doctors and nurses are going to be in before long, if you are a community club you are going to be at the heart of the community aren’t you?

“Community club doesn’t just mean going round to schools and teaching kids to play football. Community club is surely when you are really needed, to do something.”

Chelsea on Wednesday announced plans to do their bit by opening a hotel at Stamford Bridge to accommodate National Health Service staff who may otherwise face long commutes to work.

And Brighton have made a commitment to pay more than 600 casual staff who work on matchdays for their remaining five home games, whether or not the matches actually take place.

“It is important we support them, and through them our local economy at a difficult time and hopefully give them some reassurance, regardless of what else happens, they still have that income from us to come,” said Brighton chief executive Paul Barber.

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