Football for Foodbanks: The social enterprise using football as a force for good

Written by Cosmo Teare

“Seriously, you have got to stamp on this. It’s a criminal act against football fans in this country. Punish them. They will probably hide in a few weeks, and say it was nothing to do with them, they were only talking about it. Seriously, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis and these lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and basically creating more greed? Joke.”

Gary Neville’s above response to the news that the Premier League’s ‘Top Six’ clubs would be breaking away from the English League to form a so-called ‘European Super League’ captured the mood of the nation.

Stunned by the avarice of it all, Gary Lineker’s tweet epitomises the reaction of the fans. After a year in which supporters have been unable to support their club in person, where many have lost their jobs due to the impact of Covid-19, as unemployment rates soared, and 127,000 families have lost loved ones, this truly felt like a slap in the face to anyone with even the most fleeting interest in football.

Amidst the chaos of it all, an altogether more positive force in football announced that they too would be joining the European Super League.

Football for Foodbanks, a Sheffield Social Enterprise said in a typically tongue-in-cheek press release:

“We have joined the European Super League. Okay, that’s obviously not true. Over at Football for Foodbanks we’re starting to think football at its most elite level is starting to lose its way a bit. Football should be about bringing a sense of community to the local area, supporting each other, a common goal for the people.”

Football for Foodbanks launched back in August 2020 when its founder, Matty Cassell, posted on an internet forum that he was looking to form a 5-a-side team having spent a few too many years away from the game.

The nation was going through the process of ‘unlocking’ following six-months under national lockdown restrictions, and more people than ever were looking to make a return to the game.

Cassell wrote: “About once every two weeks someone posts here saying they’re looking to play a bit of footy and if there’s anyone who needs a player. 

“There’s always loads of interest and others say they want to play too. Now that 5-a-side is going again, I think it’s time to take the plunge and set up our own team lads.”

And then, crickets. Despite floods of apparent calls from people looking for a game, a 5-a-side team never came to fruition. But, Football for Foodbanks did.

The initiative provides a platform for anyone that fancies a game. Booking pitches all over Sheffield to maximise accessibility, and anyone is welcome; regardless of ability. The only rule stated on their website? “Don’t be a knob”.

The charity raises money for food banks by asking each player to chip in a little extra compared to the amount it would usually cost to rent a pitch. For example, if a game would usually cost £30 for an hour 5-a-side game, and 10 people are playing, the usual cost would be £3 each. Football for Foodbanks instead charge each player £4, meaning a quarter of the money from that game will go to those that need it.

At the end of each month, all that spare money is rounded up and donated to food banks around Sheffield. Among those receiving donations are S6 and Arthbourne. The organisation estimate that around 20% of everyone’s subs go towards filling up the shelves of a Sheffield food bank.

The organisation provides a vital boost to food banks during a time where more people are relying on them than ever. The Trussell Trust reported that between April and March 2020, a record 1.9 million people in Britain needed to access their food banks. Among these, 700,000 were children.

After starting with a handful of teams, participation in the project has boomed. There are now over 300 players in the men’s division and a new women and gender minorities league was launched to widen participation even further. 

Alice Rhind-Tutt, who recently joined Football For Foodbanks to head up its women and gender minorities division said: “I like to think we’ve widened participation through our women and gender minorities division. There’s not a lot on offer for women to play sport for fun, especially outside of parent children classes, and now our division is growing faster than the men’s. It’s also a chance to be more inclusive, we welcome people of all genders and they can play for whichever division they’re most comfortable in.

“My personal highlight is getting feedback from new players who have never played football before, who said they were scared to turn up but now love it and felt really welcome.”

To sign up for a game, visit for Football for Foodbanks Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FootballForFoodbanks. 

Written by Cosmo Teare

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