The impact of COVID-19 on local football club Village Manchester FC
- 'There were several players making their goodbyes over zoom calls'
- 'Some players moved back home for their mental health and didn't reappear'
- 'I was really proud of how the clubs got through the lockdowns'
Village Manchester FC is Manchester's gay/bi/straight/trans and inclusive football club, welcoming anyone who loves football.
The club is made up of five teams and has supported the LGBTQ community for over 25 years.
During lockdowns the players and staff of the club suffered significantly, yet remained in contact over regular zoom calls to have chats with each other.
However, the effects of reduced physical activity and sustained periods of absence from their footballing community had negative effects on some of their players and staff's mental health.
I spoke with chairperson of Village Manchester FC, James Cole, to get his insight into how COVID-19 has and may still have lasting effects on the club.
How difficult was it as a club during the first few lockdowns?
"It was difficult for everyone obviously. It came as a bit of a surprise that everything just stopped, and we didn’t really know where we would be when things came back.
"When we did come back there was a lot of fuss about whether leagues would continue.
"In the lockdown themselves, given the community that we represent, we probably have more vulnerable people than the average football team.
"There’s also issues around mental health, which is a huge thing with the LGBTQ community. I was really proud of how the clubs got through the lockdowns actually.
"There were teams arranging zoom meetings to have chats with each other. It was really encouraging to see the players come together even when they couldn’t play football."
What plans do you have in place if there was to be another lockdown?
"There’s not much we can do to plan for it. It will be what it will be.
"I don’t think Boris Johnson would get away with another lockdown. I don’t know that he even wants to do it because he’s stated very clearly that he’s not keen on lockdowns.
"I think if there was another lockdown it would probably be very short so I don’t think it would affect us too much.
"We would have to plan for the season to be extended like last time which would obviously affect our arrangements going into the summer.
"But we would stay in touch through our Facebook groups and our WhatsApp groups."
Have you seen people not return to the club since lockdown?
"There’s been a big turnover, especially during the first lockdown. The timing of it meant that for our student players, a lot returned home and never came back. There were several people making their goodbyes at the Zoom calls.
"There were also several players that moved back home for their mental health who’ve not re appeared."
What does this club mean to the players and staff and what impact would another extended period of break have on the club?
"I keep banging this mental health drum, but physical activity is a huge factor in your mental health and just being able to come to training once a week, to play once a week, not just for the physical stuff but this team in particular.
"You get to do it with people in your community and people who live the life you live and respect the life that you live.
"Some people over lockdown have to go back home and not everyone has a supportive family to live with and that’s a big deal here as well."