Surrey FA and leading UK stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands have teamed up to give men affected by the death of a baby a new way of receiving support through football.
Sands oversees and supports a UK wide initiative called Sands United.
With its roots within local communities, Sands United teams are a safe space where anyone affected by the death of a baby, but particularly men, can come together through a love of football or other team sports to offer one another companionship through a shared understanding of their unique journey through grief. The players also commemorate their babies' all too brief lives by proudly displaying their names on their home and away shirts.
The partnership means a new Sands United FC team will be launched in Guildford. This will be the latest addition to the growing network of Sands United teams that are rolling out across the UK.
Surrey FA and Sands are now recruiting a volunteer team manager to help run Sands United FC Guildford. The team manager will receive advice and support in getting set up and recruiting team members from Surrey FA and will have the full support of the charity Sands in helping local bereaved men cope with their loss.
Anyone interested in managing the team can find out more about the role here or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Ashley Gumbrell, Education and Workforce Manager at Surrey FA, said: “I had previously become aware of the work of Sands United FC as part of a 2020 BBC documentary which highlighted the work of the charity and its teams to support those suffering from loss and bereavement. The documentary struck a chord with myself and my wife through our experiences of multiple miscarriages during the early stages of pregnancy, and whilst directly supported by Sands at the time, I felt compelled to support similar initiatives locally.
We reached out to Sands United to begin the process of creating a network of local teams across Surrey. We hope that men and their families will come forward to be part of the first team in Surrey and replicate the great success seen elsewhere across the country.”
Clea Harmer, Chief Executive at Sands United, said: “We’re delighted that Surrey FA has given their support to getting Sands United FC Guildford onto the pitch. Sadly, the death of a baby is not rare. Every day in the UK around 14 babies die before, during, or soon after birth so support like this is vital to local parents and families when a baby dies the feelings of loneliness and isolation can be overwhelming and having other bereaved parents to talk to is vital, but dads can sometimes be overlooked or struggle to find ways of getting the support that suits them.
Sands is here for anyone affected by the death of a baby, through our free helpline, online forum, and network of local support groups and Sands United FC is a vital part of our bereavement support services.”
Sally Lockyer, Surrey FA CEO, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Sands to create a Sands United FC in Guildford. It is really important that together with Sands, we raise awareness of this issue as well as provide a place where men who have been through this tragic experience can come together through their love of football.
We encourage as many men as possible in the Guildford and nearby areas to join Sands United FC. We look forward to seeing this new partnership develops to supports dads and families across the County.”
Growing Sands United across the UK is part of Sands’ vision of a world where fewer babies die and when a baby does die, anyone affected receives the best possible care and support for as long as it's needed. Find out more here.