The work that Heart Research UK is doing in association with the charitable arms of professional football clubs has provided an encouraging affirmation that monies are still available despite an economic squeeze tighter than Neville Southall’s belt buckle. Alex Lawson reports.
It’s a promising sign that programmes such as the Healthy Heart Grants (HHGs) provided by Heart Research UK are being readily applied for, and achieved, by a number of clubs.
Creating a PR section dedicated to charitable, outreach work is a hard sell to many chairmen. The lack of obvious financial return can deter the appointment of staff for these positions, especially at a time when funds are under intense scrutiny throughout England’s top four leagues.
The concept is very simple. Community groups and organisations can apply for up to £10,000 to run innovative and inspiring projects that encourage people to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle and reduce their risk of developing heart disease.
Each year, Heart Research UK awards nearly £190,000 in HHGs to communities across the UK with next year’s tranche beginning in May. Some £90,000 of this funding is made through a partnership with the Subway store chain which raises money in-store for the grants.
Beneficiaries so far have included a whole host of high-profile clubs including Newcastle United, Everton and Sunderland from the Premier League, as well as Notts County, Rotherham United’s Community Sports Trust and Ayr United’s Football Academy.
“Football is a great medium to engage with people of all ages and encourage them to make lifestyle changes that will benefit their heart health,” said Katharine Greathead, Lifestyle Officer for Heart Research UK. “Football coaches and players can be excellent role models and inspire school children to steer clear of unhealthy habits such as smoking, eating unhealthily and being sedentary for the sake of their amazing hearts.
“Adult fans, passionate about the game, but who may not necessarily be fit enough to play it themselves, can also be spurred on the road to heart health as a project run by the Notts County football in the community team discovered.”
The charity has already seen strong early results this year. It awarded Notts County £9,952 for a one year project, named Motivate, which started in May to target obese supporters over 35 to reduce their risk of heart disease by shedding extra pounds, getting them fitter, and making changes to their diet. The first of four 12-week programmes has just been completed and seen an average weight loss of 4kg, a one point drop on the BMI scale, and two inches off that spare tyre.
Across the country in Merseyside, a similar year-long project entitled Look After Your Heart, Look After Your Soul has just begun with a grant of almost £10,000 from the charity towards a total of £40,000. Under the scheme, 18 to 35-year-old “hard to reach” men from deprived areas of Liverpool, who don’t engage with traditional health services, will be offered expert heart education and advice workshops and the chance to improve their heart health and fitness through a range of weekly sporting activities including football, boxing and circuit training at The Everton Family Centre.
“A group of men, including homeless, obese and/or recovering drug users, who are at high risk of heart disease, will take part in a 12-week programme of exercise, fitness testing, nutritional advice and in-depth health screening, including an ECG in partnership with Liverpool John Moores’ University and Cardiac Risk in the Young,” explained Katharine.
“Over the 12 month period, this project will engage with approximately 100 men directly and with tens of thousands of men indirectly as a result of a series of Healthy Heart messages that will be promoted through Everton FC’s media channels.”
Elsewhere, a Subway/Heart Research UK Healthy Heart Grant has been awarded to Rotherham United’s Community Sports Trust to help 80 disabled adults to live a healthy lifestyle through dietary advice, logging heart rates, and creating a DVD of the programme’s highlights.
In Scotland, the Ayr United Football Academy Healthy Hearts Project will target one thousand 10 to 12-year-olds from 32 primary schools across South Ayrshire with two-month long football camps.
Katharine believes charitable outlets for clubs enable swift development. “These groups are very professional, resourceful and provide excellent facilities and know-how when running their projects,” she said. “They are very co-operative when it comes to us wanting more information regarding the grant, arranging project visits and PR opportunities.”
Enough to convince the chairmen? It might just be.
Tags: Community, Community Matters, Everton, Healthy Heart Grants, heart disease, Heart Research UK, Newcastle United, Notts County, Sunderland