During the coronavirus pandemic, fans of sports teams in England have, for the most part, not been able to watch live sport in person.
Football fans have been unable to attend matches for the majority of this time but teams have found new ways to engage their followers.
Kingstonian FC are helping fans who have been missing watching their team play live. The Supporters’ Club have made sure that during this period, fans who are vulnerable to the loneliness caused by the pandemic are looked out for.
John McCormack, the secretary of the Kingstonian Supporters’ Club, says that the measures taken are important to maintain the connection between the football club and its supporters.
He said: “It is very difficult for our fans, some of whom are isolated and alone. At the start of the first lockdown, we undertook an exercise to identify fans who were on their own, with no internet access.
“Since that time, we have been in contact with them regularly. It’s had the impact of creating new friendships, and also the fans involved have reacted by promising to invest in the club in future, through sponsorship. That wasn’t our aim, but does show the goodwill that’s been generated.”
Kingstonian plays in the Isthmian league premier division, the seventh tier of English football, which is currently suspended.
A decision on its continuation is subject to a final FA decision on the non-league football season. It is likely to be cancelled, just like last season, meaning some Kingstonian fans have not seen their team play a competitive football match for almost a year.
McCormack suggests that despite the lack of action on the pitch, fans have been entertained by the online events set up by the Supporters’ Club, and intends to continue this.
He said: “The club also organized online quizzes, sessions with the manager, players and directors, and other podcasts to entertain fans during the first lockdown. These were very well received.
“At the moment, we have a meeting planned for next Friday, between Supporters’ Club, directors and team management to discuss what we can do now. Already, the club manager and players have offered to have regular phone calls with supporters.”
One thing the club is fully aware of is the effects that the pandemic has had on people’s mental health. The emotional stress and anxiety caused by the outbreak of Covid-19 is something the Supporters’ Club feels it is imperative to address.
McCormack said: “It is certainly a difficult time from a mental wellbeing perspective. We have very close links with MIND in Kingston, as one of our charity partners.”
He went on to say: “Our Supporters’ Club Chair, John Bangs, was recently awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Honours’ for his work with MIND in Kingston and other charities. Everything we do is with the mental wellbeing of our fans at the forefront of our thoughts.”
It has undoubtedly been a frustrating time for everyone affected by the pandemic. England is currently in its third lockdown. McCormack says that it is hard to not be able to attend, but that right now it is more important to prioritise safety.
He said: “I know from my own contract with many of our fans, how many desperately miss the football and the social interaction with all the regular supporters at the club. We hope we can get back safely to attending matches again.”