The Coronavirus pandemic has presented football clubs with a number of difficulties, but whilst their responsibility to serve the wider community remains more prevalent than ever, Aston Villa have taken a lead in providing support to those most in need.

Villa are continuing to provide support across communities in Birmingham after donating matchday supplies and deferring wages, even opening the North Stand as a maternity clinic all while exponential rates of infection and a plethora of political controversies swept the UK in months past.

Since the country was plunged into a second lockdown in November, the club’s commercial partners have also pledged their support to charitable causes as those in need depend on the generosity of others more than ever before.

When LUKE 1977 launched their latest Dapper Villan collection back in May, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic was at its height. In a bid to give something back to the real heroes of 2020, LUKE vowed to donate 30% of all sales from the new range to the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust Charity.

The Trust supports hospitals in Birmingham including The Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull Hospitals. Supporting local hospitals and indeed those in need of immediate care alongside LUKE was another step the club made to aid the second city’s Coronavirus efforts.

Thanks to the generosity of LUKE, almost £8,000 has been donated to the charity, with this number rising on a daily basis. The money raised has helped fund NHS mental health support schemes, staff welfare hubs and tablets for patients who can’t have visitors. Until Monday, November 30, anyone who purchases a piece from the new Dapper Villan collection will be automatically entered into a prize draw with some goodies up for grabs.

Charlotte Schofield, Director of Fundraising for University Hospitals Birmingham Charity, said: “On behalf of everyone at UHB Charity I would like to thank LUKE 1977 for raising such an incredible amount of money through their Dapper Villan range.

“The range has been incredibly popular, and I would like to thank all of the Villa fans who have shown their support for our staff and patients.

“The money that the Dapper Villan range has raised will help us to continue supporting our NHS Superheroes, and the patients they treat, at what continues to be a very difficult time.

“Here at UHB, our staff continue to work under really difficult conditions as the second wave of COVID-19 puts a strain on our hospitals.

“The money that we receive will allow us to fund a range of services for our staff and patients, including wellbeing support for staff, and iPads for patients so that they can keep in contact with their loved ones.”

Aston Villa’s principal partner continue to go the extra mile

Aston Villa’s Principal Partner, Cazoo, like LUKE 1977, have also launched an initiative to benefit the most in need around the West Midlands. Their new charitable initiative will see the club’s Foundation benefit from every goal the first-team score in the Premier League this season.

Cazoo have been donating £1,000 to the Foundation for every goal scored as the online car retailer pledges to raise up to £50,000 with their ‘Golden Goals’ initiative.

Villa’s historic 7-2 win over Liverpool followed a four-goal haul in Villa’s opening games against Sheffield United and Fulham, so Villa’s charitable partners have been paying out to maintain their mission to be ‘Working Together to Enrich Lives’.

Before the November international break, Cazoo had donated £18,000 to help the Aston Villa Foundation’s work in the local area as well as the wider Birmingham community. Running over 250 sessions across the week, the Foundation benefits thousands of people by living more healthy, active lifestyles, and encouraging education, pursuing training and work to contribute to stronger, safer communities.

CEO and Founder of Cazoo, Alex Chesterman OBE said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Aston Villa Foundation, a great charity that delivers essential projects and provides opportunities to people in the local communities around Birmingham.

“It’s going to be an exciting season and we look forward to the goals that will continue to help the Foundation with their incredible work in and around the community.”

Head of the Aston Villa Foundation, Guy Rippon was thankful for the generous support of this season’s new principal partner.

“We are very grateful for the support of Cazoo with the ‘Golden Goals’ initiative,” Rippon said.

“Cazoo has shown a clear commitment to supporting the local community and helping others and the ‘Golden Goals’ scheme will allow us to be able to react over the course of the season to support priority groups and help to tackle societal issues across Birmingham.”

Ezri Konsa with the winner against Sheff Utd

Ezri Konsa, whose goal against Sheffield United secured the first £1,000 donation for the Foundation, said: “I’m delighted to have played a part in this initiative. Hopefully, the Foundation will benefit from it across the whole season.”

Cazoo have also committed to supporting Everton in the Community with the same promise this season. Though, it’s not only the charitable exploits of the fastest-growing digital business in the UK that has pleased the club officials of two cornerstones of English football.

Both Villa and Everton have seen shirt sales go up 50 per cent after replacing principal partnerships with bookmakers, according to the OffThePitch soccer business outlet.

The sales boost could be worth an additional £100,000 in shirt sales revenue for Villa who had a one-year deal with the W88 betting brand worth a reported £6 million.

In fact, Cazoo’s pledge to connect fans closer to their club was even more evident when they took to the road to give away Villa’s 2020-21 third strip with their logo emblazoned on a white camouflaged body.

Joined by Gabby Agbonlahor, deserving community champions were rewarded for their charitable efforts in their local areas with a free shirt and visit from Villa’s all-time leading Premier League top-scorer.

Villa fans play their part: The Big Villa Sleepout and food bank donations

Villa fans have been playing their part too, by sleeping out in the unforgiving conditions on Saturday, November 14, to support the homeless community of Birmingham.

Incredible support saw hundreds of well-wishers donating generously to the cause, with proceeds from the charity night going to fund our Villa Kitchen project – an initiative that supports vulnerable people and families across the city, including local schools, homeless outreach groups, and housing associations, providing hot meals to those in need.

Well-known Villa fans including Nathan Dawe, Oliver Phelps, and Luke Roper all contributed to the evening’s entertaining content across the club’s official social media channels, with Villa players Ezri Konsa, Matt Targett, Matty Cash and Head Coach Dean Smith all stepping in to support the event.

As 2020 draws to a welcome close, Villa fans were also keen to reinforce their desire to feed the need and not the greed. You would have paid a whopping £60 to watch Villa’s games against Leicester, Leeds, Southampton and Arsenal – paying £8.50 per goal viewing over four Premier League games.

The pay-per-view model has since been scrapped after growing unrest for clubs and supporters groups about PPV, which was introduced for the games following the October international break.

Villa fans won’t have to worry about forking out for festive football after initially criticising the PPV model. Instead, supporters opted to give their money to charitable causes such as food banks.

Including Villa fans, football supporters from all 20 Premier League clubs have pledged thousands of pounds in the Charity not PPV campaign to donate to food banks and other charities in defiance of the charges proposed by Premier League officials.

The Charity Not PPV campaign urged fans to donate to those in need rather than paying £14.95 to watch the football after fans claimed that the pay-per-view fee to watch matches is “taking away a sense of community.”

On top of expensive TV subscription costs and during the time of a global pandemic and recession, supporters have rallied together to offer their support to hospices and other organisations helping the vulnerable.

Kerry Lenihan, a Villa fan and one of the main organisers of the campaign, told the Big Issue: “At a time when the country is already on its knees, people need something to look forward to.

“Being told that they’ve got to pay again for something they’re already paying for is not the right way to go about it. Football should be about bringing people together at tough times, adding an extra pay barrier to that is taking away a sense of community.”

Lenihan heads Aston Villa’s local food bank in Nechells. The charity provides emergency food parcels using red vouchers issued by our referral partners at three distribution centres. They also provide signposting support to try and help clients find long term solutions to food poverty issues.

Around 3,500 people who were in crisis found help from the bank during April 2019 – April 2020, with emergency food supplies, apportioned. The Aston & Nechells Foodbank is a project founded by local churches and community groups, working together towards stopping hunger in our local areas of Aston, Nechells and Washwood Heath.

After opening in November 2011, the charity has since handed out in excess of 100 tonnes of food, all of it donated from local causes. The charity that many Villa fans donated to in opposition of the Premier League’s PPV prices is an entirely voluntary run foodbank having over 100 regular volunteers working in warehouses and helping with local and national supermarket collections.

Aston & Nechells Foodbanks

Foodbank volunteers come from across our many different multi-ethnic communities aged between 18 and 80 and the Aston & Nechells team are always seeking new help to help 1 in 5 of the UK population who live below the poverty line.

The Aston & Nechells Foodbank is part of The Trussell Trust’s network of 428 foodbanks, working to tackle food poverty and hunger in our local communities, as well as across the UK after being founded in 2004.

Last year, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 1,900,122 three-day emergency food supplies and support to UK people in crisis. Of these, 720,504 went to children.

Football and charity have been overlapping in other quarters as well during the Coronavirus pandemic, with MBE Marcus Rashford continuing to front a children’s poverty crisis.

Many small businesses also took it upon themselves to help feed children over the October half term following Rashford’s appeals to come together as a community.

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