COVID-19 has all but decimated the economy, leaving many people out of work and struggling financially. As a result, foodbank use across the country is increasing, with The Trussell Trust forecasting a 61% increase in food parcels needed this winter. With tough times ahead, a group of local football fans are doing their bit to help the city’s foodbanks prepare. We spoke to Matty, the founder of Football For Foodbanks to hear more about it.
How did Football For Food banks come about?
I spent two years living in Hanoi, Vietnam where I played casual pay-and-play games of football three times a week. Despite playing in odd games in England, I found it hard to find something similar in Sheffield. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places, but then a worldwide pandemic didn’t help either. So I gave up on that format and decided to try and form a 5-a-side team. I posted on the ‘/r/Sheffield’ subreddit and there was a lot of interest. Too much interest actually. We actually had enough for two 5-a-side teams, so from there it became something a lot more casual. We grew, and are still growing. We’re now at a point where we have a diverse network of nearly 100 keen football players. From day one, I started a treasury to buy extra stuff. Training bibs, balls, reserve money for pitch hire etc. When we got to a point where we had all that, I realised that we could start doing something good. Alas, Football For Foodbanks was born (a few days ago). I have raised money for foodbanks before as it’s something that’s really close to my heart. The thought of waking up this morning to empty cupboards is depressing, but unfortunately that is happening across the country. We’re not going to fix the world, but if it means that a couple of kids go to school in the morning with a full stomach then that’s not bad going.
How does it work?
The players turn up and pay their match-day subs. Exercise shouldn’t break the bank, so I’m reluctant for the cost to ever exceed £4. We cover the cost of the pitch, and then whatever’s left goes into a kitty. At the end of every month, we head out to the supermarket and do a big shop for a local foodbank. At the end of each game every player receives a message of thanks advising how much they have personally raised just for playing an hour of football. This helps motivate them to come back again!
How’s the initiative been going so far?
The response so far has been fantastic. Having only decided to go official with it very recently, our network of players has drastically increased. We also have had a lot of media enquiries too. Word is spreading around Sheffield quickly.
What are your plans for the future?
For the time being, more football. Raise more money. We are keen to see if any footballing venues want to help us out with charitably priced pitch bookings in the knowledge that they’ll be helping to feed their neighbours.
Longer term the dream is to have a nice network of football matches being played across Sheffield, along with having great relationships with all the local foodbanks. Who knows? Maybe we can even expand beyond Sheffield.
How can people get involved/support what you’re doing?
If you are someone who hasn’t played in ages, if you feel like you might be a bit too old, if you feel like you might want to test that dodgy knee, if you are worried you might not be able to keep up with the pace anymore then just give us a try.
You can find a game with Football For Foodbanks on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1425033507689367.