BECAUSE of a developmental disorder, 11-year-old Sean had been rejected by every local football club. Until, that is, his parents took him to Bangor Saints FC, where he was welcomed with open arms.
“At Bangor it doesn’t matter who you are or what level you’re at, because we see our job as supporting young people,” says Daf Roberts, 46, a postman whose roles at the club include coaching coordinator, safeguarding officer and equality champion.
Daf tried Sean in various positions, then one week he gave him the goalkeeper’s gloves. Sean was outstanding, and that season he won the club’s Golden Gloves award.
“When we announced it at the presentation, his joy was overwhelming,” Daf recalls.
“His parents cried. They told me Sean’s dream was to be accepted and be part of a team, and he is – he’s a fantastic lad.
“People join the club thinking it’s about scoring goals, but in fact they learn to mix regardless of background.
“They learn respect, teamwork and life skills, and their fitness improves,” adds Daf, who was named 2023 FAW (Football Association of Wales) Grassroots Spirit of Football Award winner.
Founded in 2014, Bangor Saints has expanded from two to seven teams; these range from under-sevens to under-17s, and the club numbers around 100 players.
The value of a local sports club to a community is enormous, but it’s not cheap to run.
There are league and FA affiliation fees, pitch hire, kit, referees… the list goes on, especially for those with clubhouses and changing rooms to heat and maintain.
When Bangor was expanding in 2018, it needed funds and applied for a grant through the Tesco Bags of Help scheme (now called Tesco Stronger Starts).
Working in partnership with the charity Groundwork, the supermarket has awarded over £100million to more than 50,000 local projects through its funding programmes.
These include 6,000 schools, over 2,000 sports teams and 2,300 other youth organisations.
Customers can participate by voting in their local stores to support projects, or even nominate them.
“Community is the central pillar of our purpose at Tesco,” says Christine Heffernan, the company’s director of group communications.
“We’re proud that together we can help make a difference in our customers’ communities and to their friends and families.
“We’ll provide information about the projects so they can vote for them in every store and support their favourite cause.”
An allocation of £1,000 to Bangor Saints meant the club could buy new portable goalposts and enough kit to run new teams.
“Schemes like Tesco’s are a massive bonus for clubs like ours in an area where the cost of living crisis is biting,” says Daf.
“Parents can’t really afford much. Fundraising and awards like this take the pressure off parents and enable the club to flourish.”
Tesco recently launched its new grant programme, Stronger Starts, which is committing £5.3million to schools and children’s groups, funding healthy food and activities.
It has already received over 5,000 applications for the first round, showing the scale of support needed.
For help reaching local clubs and causes that could benefit from support, the supermarket chain has teamed up with The Sun’s Footie For All campaign.
The newspaper launched Footie For All after it was revealed that 94 per cent of clubs nationwide were struggling and that many young players were dropping out because their parents could not cover costs.
“It’s clubs like Bangor who see first hand the difference these opportunities can make to young people’s lives when they’re moving, motivated and mentally energised,” says Christine.
“That’s why it felt right to extend the reach of our Stronger Starts funding to grants to ensure any child can play football, and take away the worry about paying for subs or kit.
“Ensuring children thrive means we’re also ensuring our communities thrive. By encouraging mental, physical and social skills in an environment where there is a sense of enjoyment, participation and teamwork, we’re benefiting the wider future population and locality too.”
Apply for a Tesco Stronger Starts grant now
Tesco Stronger Starts is open to any local club or charitable scheme. Add your support by voting for local groups using the blue tokens in your Tesco branch
To find out more head to tescoplc.com/strongerstarts
Hear all about The Sun’s Footie For All opportunities here.
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