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.
And Carlisle United have themselves been involved as we hosted a number of drive through testing stations when the pandemic was its highest, with hundreds of local people being able to make use of that facility.
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.
Chairman Andrew Jenkins said: “We felt it was important from the moment the first lockdown was imposed to help in any way we could.
“We immediately suggested that we could use the layout of our stadium to good advantage in terms of providing a mobile testing capability.
“That quickly came to fruition and it was extremely successful, with the army and local medical specialists setting up and hosting the drive through centres.”
“We now want to add our support to what we feel is an important message,” he continued. “We want a return to normality as quickly as possible, because we all know that the current lockdown situations are causing problems with mental health and feelings of wellbeing.
“The vaccination programme will help with that, and I urge people to get their shot as soon as it becomes their turn. I had my first one just over four weeks ago and the procedure is fast, simple, painless and extremely professional.
“You’re made to feel at ease from the moment you arrive and the nurse who administered my jab had to tell me it was done, that’s how efficient the whole thing is.
“We all want to beat this disease and by getting vaccinated we can take a big step towards achieving that aim.”
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.