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Alex Brooker visits York City and calls on local fans to get behind their team

23rd March 2022

Alex Brooker has called for greater public awareness of the vital community work non-league football clubs undertake after enjoying an eye-opening visit to York City FC.

Journalist, presenter and comedian, Alex Brooker visited the LNER Community Stadium yesterday to highlight the work being done by York City FC Foundation, who have one of the best community programmes in the country, approximately two years after football shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brooker got involved with the Foundation-led programmes that aim to reduce isolation and loneliness such as Sporting Memories, Walking Football and Boot the Blues.

During his visit, he said: "I'm one of those people who didn't know just how much work non-league and community clubs do, to be honest with you. They do amazing work in their communities as well, but without the budgets, and that is a big part of it.

"It reminded me of that today. It has undoubtedly overwhelmed me this morning, seeing how much non-league and local football clubs have done for these people. For some, it's easy to forget how isolated people were during the pandemic, and it's so important that the clubs were helping."

York City Foundation uses recreational football as a way to make contacts, create support networks and talk through problems. Brooker had insight into the Sporting Memories programme - which helps older people in the community come together and talk about their sporting memories while tackling isolation and loneliness.

He also met some of the school children from the area who are involved in the club, enjoying a coaching session on the hallowed turf and finding out how the club has become one of the best in the country for their community work.

One of those who has seen their life transformed by York City’s Foundation programme Walking Football is Steve Farrow, from North Norfolk, who credits York City Foundation with helping him overcome depression.

Farrow said: "Before I started playing Walking Football, I suddenly became very depressed. I had had two very good careers in my life, and I have gone all over the world, but I suddenly got depressed.

"About 15 years prior to this, I was told I couldn't play football anymore because I have arthritic hips, but I thought as this is non-contact, I'd give it ago. So, I turned up in January of 2018 and thought: wow, there's been no reaction to my hips, I can actually do this.

"On a personal level, I could never be grateful enough for the role community football, and York City FC has played. Less than a year later, I have never looked back."

York City are involved in ‘National Lottery Football Weekends’ which celebrates the amazing role played by non-league, lower league and domestic football clubs in communities across the UK, seeing tickets available on a ‘buy one get one free’ basis for National Lottery this Saturday in the fixture against Leamington.

The initiative comes after the future of non-league football clubs was thrown seriously into doubt, with the essential financial support provided by sales of tickets, food and drinks stripped away.

And it was even tougher for The Minstermen, who opened their new 8,500 capacity LNER Community Stadium in February 2021.

The National Lottery stepped in to help non-league clubs with a crucial £12.5 million pool of emergency funding to help clubs like York City during this time.

Brooker added: "The support from The National Lottery has been amazing for non-league clubs. It is sort of what The National Lottery is all about, exactly what I've seen today. Without this funding, a lot of the programmes here wouldn't work, and it would be a desperate shame to lose them.

"A lot of people would have lost a big lifeline during the pandemic if it wasn’t for The National Lottery. It has just reminded me how important it is that we support these things and that there is life beyond the Premier League in football."

The National Lottery Football Weekends campaign will make over 100,000 tickets available on a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ basis for National Lottery players for selected matches as a ‘thank you’ for over £12.5million of funding they helped provide to community football clubs during the Covid pandemic.

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