Blackburn Rovers Community Trust played a pivotal role in the annual EFL Day of Action, which was held on Tuesday 20th March.
All 72 EFL clubs and trusts came together on the same day to demonstrate the positive impact football can have in changing young people’s lives.
To mark the day, the club’s official charity hosted the EFL Kids Cup northern area finals at the Academy’s training ground at Brockhall Village, with EFL chairman Ian Lenagan and EFL Trust director of operations Mike Evans in attendance.
They were joined by Rovers first-team stars Amari’i Bell and Jack Payne, with the pair showing their support by presenting medals to the participants and watching the semi-finals and final match.
More than 100 primary school children took part from the 11 most northerly League One clubs, stretching from Fleetwood to Shrewsbury. The 11 EFL clubs were represented by a primary school which won their specific club heat.
Oldham Athletic were the winners on the day, beating Greater Manchester neighbours Rochdale in the final and they have earnt the right to play the southern winners AFC Wimbledon at Wembley prior to the Sky Bet League One Play-Off final.
Rovers, who were represented by South Ribble-based primary school Whitefield, won all of their five group matches but unfortunately were eliminated in the semi-finals by Rochdale on penalties despite a spirited display.
Overall, it was a positive day for our Community Trust, with Sky Sports News showcasing the competition with a live broadcast at 2pm as part of their coverage.
Rovers midfielder Payne, who played in a similar competition when he was growing up, praised the EFL Kids Cup for providing an opportunity for children to get the chance to play at Wembley Stadium.
“For the ultimate prize to be the opportunity to play at Wembley is fantastic and potentially a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, so fair play to all of the teams that took part,” he said.
“I played in a competition similar to this with my Sunday League team and there was an opportunity for the winner to play at Wembley. We got to the last stage but we didn’t quite make it, which I was gutted about.
“They will all remember the opportunity to play at Rovers’ Academy for a long time. I was pleased to play a part in the EFL Day of Action.”
The EFL Kids Cup northern area final was originally scheduled to be played earlier this month in Wigan but it was postponed due to the severe weather conditions.
Rovers were therefore asked to step in and host the competition in conjunction with the EFL Day of Action on its rearranged date, and EFL Trust director Evans was full of praise for how well organised the competition turned out to be.
He said: “It was a fantastic tournament with 11 teams going at it hammer and tongs, it was very competitive and a really good standard. Blackburn Rovers Community Trust did a fantastic job hosting the competition.
“We had to re-arrange the competition due to the weather but it was a great to get the EFL Kids Cup northern area finals at the Academy and to play the matches outdoors on grass. It was an absolutely fantastic effort from everyone concerned.
“We had lots of community activities going on throughout the day all over the country, from disability football tournaments to mental health tournaments, youth conferences and much more.”
The EFL Kids Cup wasn’t the Trust’s only involvement in the Day of Action and one day earlier, Social Inclusion Football League participant Paul Davies appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC Two.
Evans, who was also a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show, had nothing but admiration for Davies after he bravely told his story – which has seen him recover from two failed suicide attempts thanks to the intervention of social care provider Creative Support and his involvement in the SIFL - on national television.
“Paul has made a trip to Parliament for the Community Club of the Year award and one week later was a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show representing Blackburn Rovers Community Trust,” concluded Evans.
“It has been great that Paul and Blackburn Rovers Community Trust have been able to help support us in getting the message out about the really good work that is happening around the country.”