As the UK Brexits because it can apparently do better on its own, groups of football supporters are trying to bridge rivalries to feed those who are driven to foodbanks because of the conditions in this country.
I know you don’t want to read it. You want to read about football. This isn’t football, right?
Do you think football fans are somehow immune to the effects of austerity forced on this country by the Tory government just given a massive English mandate to continue starving the entire UK?
This weekend, Arsenal women head to Manchester for what is a crunch tie in the three-horse title race this season and a section of City fans reached out to us to help raise awareness of what they’re trying to do as part of this growing collective. It was something I was both happy to do and furious that it was needed at all.
I spoke to Alex from MCFC Fans Foodbank Support.
What is MCFC Fans Foodbank Support?
We are collecting donations in aid of Manchester Central Foodbank at City’s weekend home games – and now we are doing our first collection at a City Women’s game when Arsenal visit this weekend. There will also be a collection for the Arsenal Men’s game in March.
So far, we have held four collections. Only two have been weighed and counted so far, but our running total is already 594.1kg of donations which is equivalent to approximately 1,737 meals.
Did you come up with this yourself?
No, we are under the umbrella of Fans Supporting Foodbanks (@sfoodbanks), an organisation set up on Merseyside five years ago which has expanded across the country. There are now dozens of fanbases involved in collections, making a difference to both their local communities and wider society.
Why are you doing this?
The first part is the practical answer – to collect food to help people who can’t afford to eat. The Trussell Trust handed out 1.6 million food parcels last year, representing a 19% annual rise.
Each food parcel contains enough food for three day’s worth of meals, and the most vulnerable sections of society are most likely to need this help: the elderly, the disabled, young families and single parents.
There are approximately 2,000 individual food bank centres across the UK – absolutely none of them have enough resources, time or capacity to help everyone who needs it. With the full rollout of Universal Credit and five more years of a Tory government coming up, the problem is only going to get worse. If you’ve ever wanted to help – now is the time.
The second part is to build bridges between fanbases and use the power that we football fans have to help build a better society. Football clubs were born out of our communities; this is a way to support each other in a difficult time.
The tribalism that infects football keeps us all apart and stops us getting together to do anything good – whether that’s stand together to fight for cheaper ticket prices, resist absurd kick off times imposed on us by television, or achieve wider goals like our foodbank support project.
Millions of people attend football matches home and away every week. If we all got together then the potential we have is limitless. That’s why we are so keen to build bridges between fanbases, which includes trying to persuade away fans to donate when they come to Manchester – and, likewise, we take donations to collections done by other fanbases on away days.
For example, when the men’s team played Crystal Palace a few weeks ago, we had a fair few donations from travelling fans who wanted to contribute. The West Ham lot (Irons Supporting Foodbanks) are going to come up on 9th February to support us too.
It’s extremely heartwarming and restores your faith in football. Football can be something entirely positive if we want it to be.
How can Arsenal fans help?
With two away days at City coming up in the space of a month (both the women’s and men’s teams are coming up), Arsenal fans have two opportunities to donate if they wish to.
Key items to donate are:
- Non-perishable food (anything in a tin, pasta, tinned meat or fish etc)
- Long life milk or fruit juice
- Women’s sanitary products
The stands are really close to the stadium and opposite a massive Asda, so no need to lug stuff up on the train. Check out our twitter account (@MCFCfoodbank) for more information on times.
This sounds interesting – can I set up a collection at Arsenal?
Yes – the most revelatory thing for our group was how easy it was. It took about 10 days from having the initial idea to being at our first game on New Year’s Day.
If anyone is interested about how they can get involved, get in touch with us via twitter or [email protected] and one of our group will be more than happy to take some time and give you as much information as you need.