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Johnny Phillips: Molineux sleepout raising money and awareness of poverty

The football headlines in recent weeks have not necessarily been the best at illustrating the supposed values of the industry.

Getting ready for the Molineux Sleepout, members of the Good Shepherd (left) Daniel Turner, and (right) Dawn Walls, with (centre) senior communication officer Scott Brotherton, at the Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton..
Getting ready for the Molineux Sleepout, members of the Good Shepherd (left) Daniel Turner, and (right) Dawn Walls, with (centre) senior communication officer Scott Brotherton, at the Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton..

The takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia investment fund PIF, former Fifa president Sepp Blatter and former Uefa president Michel Platini indicted by Swiss authorities over an alleged unlawful £1.6million payment, and plans afoot to host a World Cup every two years to increase the already over-flowing coffers of the game’s authorities.

To that end, it is perhaps timely that next week there will be a reminder of the positive role football and its clubs can play in their communities.

The Wolves Foundation is holding its annual Molineux Sleepout on Friday, November 12, back at the stadium following the virtual event last season.

Football clubs have the status and potential to exist for the benefit of their communities and, where possible, reach out to those in need of support. Successful sleepout events have long been running at several clubs, including Stoke City, Everton, Celtic and Rangers.

The funds raised from the Molineux Sleepout will be split equally between Wolves Foundation and the Good Shepherd.

“We remain extremely appreciative of the support we receive from Wolves Foundation and the opportunities to link up on different projects,” says Tom Hayden, head of operations at the Good Shepherd. “Many of our service users are Wolves fans, and it is particularly special for them to link up with the Foundation when the two charities work together.”

The charity provides a range of different support services to help people get back on their feet, but the daily food service at the Good Shepherd, on the Waterloo Road opposite the Billy Wright Stand, is its most publicised work within the city.

Food poverty has been on the rise in recent years, particularly among children. Supporters of Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle United have been especially proactive operating food banks on matchdays and providing a valuable service to their community. When fixtures went behind closed doors during the Covid-19 pandemic, those food banks suffered inmeasurably.

The issue of food poverty touched the heart of former Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo during his time in the city.

In January this year he donated £250,000 to help launch Feed Our Pack, a figure that was matched by the Premier League PFA Community Fund.

Feed Our Pack has been supporting selected food banks in the city, increasing the volume of food being distributed to meet increased demand caused by the pandemic, along with combatting holiday hunger by providing a programme of food, sport and education to local children during school holidays.

“When you think that you don’t have food, you are not able to provide food for your family, that is the worst feeling somebody can have,” Nuno said, when launching Feed Our Pack. “This pandemic will leave big scars in our lives, so let’s try to make it easier for everybody. Being selfish would be our worst mistake. It’s my moral obligation to help.”

Nuno was not alone in the football world when he decided to offer a helping hand to those who, so often, have no voice.

It is just over a year since the government infamously voted not to extend free school meals for children – many living in poverty – during half-term. It was profoundly upsetting that, at a time of this country’s greatest post-war crisis, those in power turned their backs.

Fortunately, the most vulnerable were given support at the 11th hour by the phenomenal campaigning of Marcus Rashford, who successfully forced a u-turn. The Manchester United and England forward was brought up by a single mother who would sometimes skip meals herself to feed her children.

Wolves fans have already been generous in their support of Feed Our Pack, with over £80,000 added by supporters to the initial investment. On Monday night, ahead of the Everton match, a food bank was set up for donations in the Fan Zone.

The support is making a real difference in the community, with over 14,000 meals delivered to those in need through Feed Our Pack, as well as 150 hours of organised physical activities being run during school holidays.

Wolves captain Conor Coady attended last year’s virtual sleepout.

This year, one of his predecessors, Karl Henry, will be a returning face in attendance.

“I remember it being a very cold and wet night when we did the first sleepout a couple of years ago,” he says. “But also such a worthwhile experience to raise vital funds and awareness.”

It is important to highlight the physical side to the event. Sleeping rough is a brutal way to spend an evening and there are thousands across the country who face this reality every night.

There is a real community feel to the Molineux Sleepout but not everyone gets to choose somewhere so inspiring to spend a night in the open air.

The sleepout will run from 7pm to 7am on Friday, with participants spending the night sleeping, or at least attempting to get 40 winks, in the Stan Cullis Stand.

If you are keen to take part in this year’s event you have until Monday to purchase tickets. Here’s the link:

And if you simply wish to make a donation to the Wolves Foundation and Good Shepherd, then you can do so here:

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