The Irish FA has praised local clubs and volunteers supporting the vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis.
As the coronavirus epidemic has spread across Northern Ireland, football's response has been very strong and, on the ground, clubs and volunteers have played a crucial role.
“Through our grassroots networks we are aware of more than 50 football clubs across the country actively delivering food or medicine to the most vulnerable in our society,” said Michael Boyd, the IFA's director of football development.
“We also know many of our football clubs and volunteers have signed up to help their local community groups at this time. These clubs and the volunteers involved are making a vital contribution to the community during this crisis and we are extremely proud of them.
“Strong community-focused groups like Greenisland, St Mary’s, Dungannon Swifts, Glentoran, Ballinamallard United, Glenavon, Santos, Rosario, the Harry Gregg Foundation and others across the country are leading the way serving the community.”
Ciara Louise Boyes the chairwoman of Rosario FC in south Belfast, added: "It has been great to see the three local sports clubs (boxing, GAA and football) working together to provide a food bank service to the local community. The volunteers have worked tirelessly, and we have nothing but admiration for them. The parents and members of the clubs have been very generous with donations.
“The volunteers have also provided information and activities for the Rosario community to keep in contact with them during this unprecedented time. One great aspect of this awful virus, is the community spirit which has grown from strength to strength."
The Irish FA is also supporting the COVID-19 Emergencies Leadership Group (ELG) established by Department for Communities minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA with 24 staff from the Irish FA Foundation charitable arm volunteering to support the new council-led community response hubs; and many other staff volunteering through their local community groups. These staff helping support the hubs and the most vulnerable in the community with:
- Food delivery to vulnerable
- Signposting to Community Helplines
- Encouraging volunteer support
- Community and Voluntary Support for Pharmacies
- Promotion of the Irish FA’s Wee Football Chat initiative supporting isolated people
- Promotion of the Irish FA Coronavirus support page and booklet for clubs on the Irish FA website
The Irish FA and football clubs across the country are supporting the Department for Communities in delivering measures to support provision of food and assistance to vulnerable groups. These groups include the 40,000 'shielded' group who are required to follow stringent self-isolating measures; vulnerable children and families who are entitled to free school meals and the wider group of vulnerable people in society who may struggle to get access to food supplies.