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How Preston are engaging with community for Ramadan


The gazebo, offering support, snacks and information during Ramadan, will be outside Preston North End's Deepdale home until 7 May
The gazebo, offering support, snacks and information during Ramadan, will be outside Preston North End’s Deepdale home until 7 May

“The club and the majority of its fans have come from a majority white British background and there’s quite a lot of work to be done to ensure that all of the community know Preston North End is somewhere they can visit and can be comfortable.”

With fans still unable to attend matches with the coronavirus pandemic rumbling on, clubs across the English Football League are working hard to keep the link going with their supporters.

With the month of Ramadan under way, Preston North End have put a plan in place to assist the local Muslim community in conjunction with the EFL’s fifth annual Day of Action, which takes place on Wednesday.

BBC Sport caught up with those at the club who are working to engage with a wider section of the local community.

‘We have a big part to play’

Rebecca Robertson with some of the snacks on offer at Deepdale for those in need during Ramadan
Rebecca Robertson with some of the snacks on offer at Deepdale for those in need during Ramadan

When Ramadan began on Monday, members of North End’s Community and Education Trust, set up a gazebo outside the club’s Deepdale home.

Their aim is to offer water, dates and fresh fruit to Muslims who are fasting, as well as educating others on the meaning of Ramadan celebrations, between 18:00 and 19:30 BST until 7 May.

“The area has a big Muslim community so we’re going to be working with a number of partners to offer culturally appropriate food and produce to members of the community in order for them to be able to open their fast,” the Trust’s head of community engagement Rebecca Robertson told BBC Sport.

“Ramadan is the perfect month for us to enhance what we’re already doing within the community and educate the rest of the community as well.

“There are people that still don’t know what Ramadan is, why it’s celebrated, why people take part in that celebration. We’ve got a big part to play in ensuring that people understand why it happens.”

An opportunity to bring people together

Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and is a spiritual time where Muslims also reflect on their daily lives while fasting for an average of 16 hours a day.

Robertson and her team are not just handing out snacks to those who need them, however, as they look to practise fasting during the month, too.

“Some of our staff are going to take part in it as well so we’re not just watching people do it, we’re going to put ourselves in the shoes of the Muslim community and see how it feels to take part,” Robertson added.

“It’s really important. We’ve done what we can to make sure we’re including everyone in what we’re doing. The EFL’s Day of Action is an opportunity for us to celebrate it and bring it together.

“It’s also an opportunity to see what other clubs are doing as we’re so in our own lane we don’t get the opportunity to celebrate other people’s successes as well as our own.”

‘Even if you’re not a football fan it’s good’

Preston captain Alan Browne, who recently signed a new deal with the club, said the efforts of the club’s community department have not gone unnoticed by the squad.

“It’s brilliant for us to see,” Browne said of the initiative to BBC Sport.

“Over the past year or so it’s been really difficult to get that binding connection because of the pandemic and you can’t really build relationships with people outside the football club.”

Having spent over a year playing without fans in attendance because of the pandemic, Browne says the players are heartened by the initiative and its broader appeal than just sport.

“For us as players we love seeing things like this. Even if you’re not a football fan or you’ve no interest it’s good to get in with the community whether that’s around football or not,” he added.

“To see us support different causes and events is brilliant.”

Green fingers and soccer schools on Day of Action

Lincoln City's Alex Palmer and Anthony Scully pitch in to help members of the Sincil Community Land Trust regenerate a garden
Lincoln City’s Alex Palmer and Anthony Scully pitch in to help members of the Sincil Community Land Trust regenerate a garden

Elsewhere on the EFL’s Day of Action, Norwich City players and coaching staff have raised £200,000 to fund a soccer school set up for the children of NHS workers at three local hospitals to say thank you for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Canaries goalkeeper Tim Krul is scheduled to make an appearance at the NHS Superhero Soccer School, with more than 300 children benefiting from the activity.

At Millwall, club legend Paul Robinson will hold a special coaching session for the Championship club’s LGBT team while Middlesbrough will be delivering its Football Welcomes activity to create friendly communities for refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the local area.

Members of Tranmere’s first-team squad will pay “garden gate” visits to isolated members of the local community to check in on their wellbeing, with Lincoln goalkeeper Alex Palmer attending a local garden in need of regeneration as part of a project to provide more green space in the area.

Portsmouth will deliver a holiday cook-a-long course at their purpose-built learning facility the ‘Blue Kitchen’ to educate young children about the importance of healthy eating as well as teaching the basics of home cooking.

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