Andy Cole and Bryan Robson

Reds legends reach out to elderly fans

Friday 17 April 2020 17:15

Manchester United legends including Bryan Robson, Gary Pallister and Andrew Cole have joined club staff in reaching out to elderly fans and season-ticket holders who are in lockdown all over the UK.

Over 3,000 United supporters are being called as part of an outreach campaign to keep the club connected with older fans during the coronavirus epidemic.

Collette Roche, chief operating officer, explained the idea behind the calls: “We all recognise how difficult a time this is for many of our fans, particularly elderly ones in isolation. A simple phone-call can brighten someone’s day so we’ve put in place a plan to call all our older season-ticket holders and others who we know may be vulnerable.”

Roche added: “Having the legends involved has been a real bonus.”

Watch our legends making calls to the community.
Robson enjoyed reminiscing with supporters on the phone: “You get a real sense of how dedicated the fans are after talking to them. We talked about their favourite players, memorable matches and even spoke about a supporters’ dinner where I was presented with an award.”

Pallister spoke about how important his own connections to the club are: “I’ve really missed coming to Old Trafford for the games. It’s not even all about the football, it’s the people you meet and the discussions you have.

“While we can’t wait until the football is back up and running, this has been a lovely experience to be part of. It allows us all to feel connected to United. The fans have looked after me as a player over the years, so it has been rewarding to offer them some support in return.”

“We all have a duty to reach out to those who might need help or simply some company at this time,” said Gary.

Bryan, Gary and Andrew joined the outreach team alongside fellow legends David May and Wes Brown, ticket-office staff and other colleagues from the venue marketing and hospitality departments, who have been redeployed to support the initiative.

Michael Leneghan, supporters liaison officer said: “Many of those who we speak to are getting lots of support from their neighbours and from their family but they’ve mentioned that it’s nice that the club are thinking of them. Some fans are isolated and a phone-call can make their day.

“One fan, an elderly lady at 94, was nearly in tears that we had called.”

Michael continued: “It’s been such a rewarding experience for all of us making the calls because we’ve got so many great personalities among our older supporters and they’ve really appreciated the calls. It’s been great to deepen our connection with them, even when they’re not able to get to Old Trafford.”

Watch part of Cadbury's#DonateYourWords campaign.

With the lockdown in the UK now in its fourth week, the club plan to continue engaging with its elderly and other vulnerable supporters beyond the first wave of calls made so far. “Our outreach needs to be sustained over the course of the coming weeks and months. We realise that we could be in it for the long haul and more support is going to be needed the longer it goes on," said Roche.

The outreach programme builds on the club’s support for the #DonateYourWords campaign to combat loneliness among the elderly, together with its partner Cadbury and Age UK. Back in February, United invited a group of elderly fans to be guests of honour at the Watford game as part of the club’s partnership with Cadbury and their #donateyourwords campaign. 'Donate Your Words' highlights the issue of loneliness among Britain’s older generation, after research undertaken by Cadbury and Age UK revealed that, in a typical week, almost 2.6million people aged 65 and over speak to three or fewer others, with more than 225,000 often going a week without speaking to anyone.

Robson called on all United fans to do their bit to support elderly and vulnerable members of society during the lockdown: “One of the things that I’ve been most impressed by is the real sense of community amongst our fans. It is clear that they are looking out for each other and I would encourage everyone to do the same.

“If we could all make one call a day to someone we know, just to check in with them and see how they are doing, it will make a huge difference.”