Liverpool FC: the club with a local heart and a global pulse

A year on since the UK government enforced the first nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19, the effects of the pandemic continue to be harshly felt across all communities.
We previously looked at the wonderful work that Italian giants Juventus FC have done to bring Italy together over the past 12 months and another club that has struck the right tone with their response has been reigning English Premier League champions Liverpool FC.

As we went into the first lockdown, everything stopped including football on the pitch, so for the club the community work was the one area that was still going in a practical sense.

Matt Parish
The Merseyside club have enjoyed a stellar few years on the pitch with further titles in the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup, but it’s their work off the field that has once again underlined their commitment to the local region.
As the pandemic initially took hold in the UK, Liverpool FC worked closely with the LFC Foundation – the club’s official charity – and Red Neighbours, its community programme that supports local residents and schools in the Anfield area, to identify social isolation, food poverty, and wellbeing as the three main areas of need in the local community.
Matt Parish, Chief Executive of the LFC Foundation, commented: “As we went into the first lockdown, everything stopped including football on the pitch, so for the club the community work was the one area that was still going in a practical sense.
“Pretty quickly I found myself chairing a weekly Covid community response meeting with all different departments of the club to discuss how to support our communities during this period.
“We feel that we’ve stepped up and supported them as much as possible, but that has been a real club effort and we’ve had around 170 volunteers from across the club.”
After spells working in the community teams at Charlton Athletic and Burnley, Parish has spent the last five years living on Merseyside and joined as head of the Foundation in March 2019, and has more recently been promoted to Chief Executive
Liverpool is renowned for being a city with football at its heart and is something that Parish believes means the club has an increased responsibility to its local community.
“It sounds like a cliché but football is such a key part of the community here, the taxi drivers will often ask you within a minute if you’re a red [Liverpool fan] or a blue [Everton fan].
“There was such joy in the city when they bought the Champions League back, 500,000 people went to that parade and it was a city event. There is a real connection, it’s an international club, but the heart is in north Liverpool.”
The Liverpool FC fans supporters’ groups are very connected to the club and have also played a crucial role in the community work that the LFC Foundation and Red Neighbours programme have done.
“The foodbank connection is a great example,” Parish continued. “When we went to the fans during lockdown and said we’re going to fundraise to support the community, they really stepped up.
Food parcels are picked up from Anfield for delivery
“We’ve been able to donate over £320,000 to food poverty in Liverpool since last March and that’s come entirely from money that fans have fundraised, not just on Merseyside, but around the world.
“An example is the official Norway LFC Supporters Club that raised £80,000 on their own for food poverty in Liverpool. That just shows the connection and it’s absolutely brilliant to lead the Foundation of a club with the community at its heart.”
Liverpool legend Bill Shankly famously commented ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that,' and that attitude is epitomised by Liverpool’s passionate supporters.
Laureus Ambassador Jamie Redknapp made over 300 appearances during a 10-year spell at the Reds and knows just what the football club means to its fans.
Laureus Ambassador Jamie Redknapp at a project visit in 2016
“The response of the Liverpool fans during the pandemic has illustrated why the club is so engrained within the local community.
“I was lucky enough to count on their support during my spell at the club and you could always tell that football meant that little bit more.
“There is no escaping the fact that the city has areas of need and challenges and it is no exaggeration to say that the response of the club and its Foundation has helped to save lives during this incredibly difficult time.”
Despite struggling to maintain their irresistible form of recent years during a difficult season on the pitch, the current Liverpool FC first team squad remains highly supportive of the club’s community work and manager Jurgen Klopp is also an Ambassador of the LFC Foundation.
Klopp and defender Virgil Van Dijk have been among those that have made over 1400 calls totalling 400 hours of conversation to let socially isolated people in the community know they’re not alone.
Midfielder Thiago Alcântara only joined Liverpool in September, but has already joined in with community activities, including taking part in a Spanish vs Scouse language lesson as part of one of the club’s Primary Stars sessions.
“Ultimately we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a footballer and manager’s job is playing the game, but we’re very fortunate to have the support of Klopp and the players,” Parish added.
“Access to players has actually been easier because all of the sessions that we’ve provided have been virtual rather than face-to-face. While we’d much prefer to do the visits in-person, the online nature has perhaps given us more scope. Having players as extra supply teachers for Primary Stars has been massive!”
Alongside the vast sums of money raised for local foodbanks and the calls made to vulnerable individuals in Liverpool, the club has also prepared, cooked and delivered over 52,000 fresh meals to families and collected over 15 tonnes of food to feed local people.
Former Liverpool FC goalkeeper Chris Kirkland helps out with the delivery of food parcels
Physical and mental health has also been a key focus of the Foundation with over 800 virtual fitness sessions delivered, as well as the creation of online grassroots sports programmes for 7000 children across 69 local schools.
“The impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of communities as a result of the last year is unlikely to see its own peak for some time yet,” Parish concluded.
“We knew some people would find it tough to suddenly go from a few sessions a week in-person to purely virtual participation, and especially the kids and elderly members of our communities.
“The work we have done around children’s mental health within the LFC Foundation recognises that grassroots sports sessions do have an impact on the wellbeing of young people and need to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
“Our programmes are now accessible to so many people who might not have been able to come down to a session before and it’s certainly something we will continue with when the world returns to some sort of normality.”
A Life-Changing Year in Numbers: Reds Covid Community Response
  • Wellbeing – supported the physical and mental health of our communities by delivering 800 virtual fitness sessions, created online grassroots sports programmes for 7000 children and supported 69 local schools helping teachers and children to stay active
  • Social Isolation – made 1400 calls totalling 400 hours of chats to let people in the community know they’re not alone
  • Food Poverty – raised £320,000 to help people struggling to feed themselves; prepared, cooked and delivered 52,000 fresh meals to families and collected over 15 tonnes of food which fed local people

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