Today, the English Football League (EFL) marks its fifth Day of Action, where all 72 Clubs from its three divisions come together to demonstrate the impact that football has in positively changing people’s lives.
Throughout the Day of Action, club players and managers join participants in a range of community activities, with Hatters manager Nathan Jones and striker Elijah Adebayo giving up their time in recent days to speak to supporters and local youngsters on Zoom.
The importance of football Clubs to their local communities has never been clearer than in the last year, with millions of people across the nation relying on their local Club for food donations, mental health and wellbeing support and even transport to and from Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites.
Since March 2020, EFL Clubs have collectively distributed over 1.4 million food parcels, more than 179,000 items of PPE, 22,000 prescriptions and donated over 2,100 laptops and tablets to people facing technology poverty.
Club staff and their players have had in excess of 527,000 outgoing and incoming conversations with fans and vulnerable people, and over 600 job opportunities are being delivered for young unemployed people.
There is a real need for Clubs to bounce back from the financial implications of the pandemic in order to sustain the delivery of these life-changing community programmes.
Using the power of football, the EFL is able to engage some of the most vulnerable members of society to address important issues in the areas of equalities, diversity and inclusion, education, employment and health and wellbeing. Every season, EFL Clubs and CCOs provide more than half a million hours of group activity and over 40 million hours of participation.
Here at Kenilworth Road, the Luton Town Community Trust has been organising physical and online programmes to help supporters remain engaged with their local football club at a time when they sadly haven’t been able to attend matches.
With lockdown restrictions easing in recent days, hundreds of children attended Easter holiday camps in the town, while youngsters in the Community Trust's player development centres returned to action with internal football festivals (pictures in the gallery above are of children getting back out on the grass at Ely Way last Friday under the watchful eye of the Trust's coaches.)
You can find out more about the LTFC Community Trust's work on www.lutontowncommunity.co.uk
Their other recent projects ahead of today's EFL Day of Action have included...
Every Monday since early on in the first lockdown, a group of senior supporters – several of whom have been shielding for long periods of the pandemic – have been meeting on Zoom to discuss the weekend’s game and keep up to date with all things LTFC.
This has formed part of the Tackling Loneliness Together programme, with guests from the playing and coaching staff regularly joining for a Q&A to help keep the close bond that has developed between the team and the fanbase in recent seasons.
Assistant-manager and club legend Mick Harford, captain Sonny Bradley, attackers Harry Cornick and Jordan Clark have all provided a fascinating session for the participants, with manager Nathan Jones joining the group for a special EFL Day of Action chat during the recent international break.
Nathan was very open in his time with around 20 supporters, answering questions that he hadn’t seen before the session in an honest fashion that impressed all present.
That chat, with exclusive insights into the way he and the squad work and feel, will remain private, but the quotes below show what some of the regulars in the group have said about the impact the sessions have had on them during what has been such a difficult year for so many.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know the person behind the name we all know. It has been great to learn the club is in such great hands from pitch to boardroom. I really enjoyed it when Harry Cornick and Nathan Jones joined us. Harry was great as he was so laid back and open discussing things both on and off the pitch. Nathan impressed me with his honesty and drive. Sharing his vision for where he sees the club progress. It was really hard to pick my favourite, as they have all been so good. Please pass on my thanks to them and those who arranged the meetings” – DAVID WISE
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Q and A with Harry Cornick. I thought he came over really well and we gained some great insights from a player's perspective and in particular the team spirit within the club. As supporters we like to think our club is something special, but it is warming to hear similar sentiments from a player” – PETER ROLLINGS
“Chatting to the players has been invaluable in understanding how much they do care about the club. Even when they have a bad game it's interesting how it affects them and shows how much they care, and I always think twice about criticising them now!” – PAUL STILWELL
LUTON TOWN FC ELITE FOOTBALL ACADEMY
An important programme that the Community Trust operate at The Chalk Hills Academy is a 16-19 year old Sports BTEC Course in partnership with The Shared Learning Trust.
Students combine their full-time education with football development, sharing their classroom-based studies with daily football training.
The students recently heard from Town defender Matty Pearson, and yesterday it was striker Elijah Adebayo who spoke to them on Zoom, answering their questions and giving them advice ahead of the EFL Day of Action.
Matt Collett, the BTEC Elite manager, said: “Our students represent Luton Town FC in a weekly U18 fixtures against other professional clubs.
“The programme is aimed at both boys and girls, with Year 11 leavers that have a passion for football, whilst also gaining a BTEC sports qualification alongside their football.
“Our current Year 13 students are in their final year with many going to university to study sports coaching or physiotherapy.
“It was great to hear Elijah's story, to hear him answer the students’ questions and give them an insight into what it takes to become a professional footballer.
“He also gave them examples of other vital roles that provide support for the players, and help the club function, that the students could pursue for a career in football.
“It was a huge help to their studies and gave them real inspiration to go out and work hard in their football training and coursework, so thank you to Elijah for giving them his time.”
You can watch and listen to Elijah’s Q&A on our YouTube channel HERE.
HOLIDAY ACTIVITY AND FOOD CAMPS
Over the Easter holiday period, Luton Town FC Community Trust ran holiday provision camps at five centres across Luton.
Part of the Government-funded, Holiday Activities and Food camps programme (HAF), this was done in partnership with Active Luton and Luton Borough Council and 175 children from across the town were able to attend these camps and take part in fun, social activities in a safe environment, led by Luton Town FC Community Trust staff.
For lunch, all children received a nutritious and tasty meal prepared by catering staff from Luton Town FC.
Thanks to Government funding, the large majority of children attending were in receipt of free school meals during term time and we were able to ensure they were also able to get a healthy meal over the Easter holidays too, whilst also having lots of fun and taking part in healthy activities.
The project is to be expanded for the Summer holidays, when it will be delivered on an even larger scale having started with the club supporting Marcus Rashford’s campaign by providing 250 free meals a day during last October half-term to St Matthew’s Primary School and Luton Foodbank.
You can find out more about the Luton Town Community Trust's work on www.lutontowncommunity.co.uk