The Armed Forces and football’s National League came together today in a groundbreaking event which saw even more of the league’s clubs sign up to the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant.
All 68 of the National League’s clubs have agreed in principle to sign the covenant and today – six of them – Solihull Moors, Worcester City, Kidderminster Harriers, Sutton United, Dover Athletic, and Havant and Waterlooville – signed on the dotted line in front of VIP’s and dignitaries from the Army and the National League.
The signing, which took place at Telford United Football Club after an Extraordinary General Meeting of the National League, saw chairmen of all the league’s clubs meet up with soldiers from paired local Army units.
Major General Richard Stanford MBE, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Regional Command, said the move highlighted the similarities between the football, sport and military communities and was an opportunity to develop closer links between them.
He said: “It’s all about society, football, and the Armed Forces coming together to support each other.
“Football changes people’s lives and gives opportunities to people of all ages; we’re in the same business – in the people business – and we believe in maximising talent and sport offers opportunities for people across the spectrum.
“I’m very glad to say that sport in the Armed Forces is now recognised as a core activity – it’s really important that sport is part of our values and standards. It generates and maintains cohesion and it generates teamwork.
“Football is the national game and it’s also the soldiers’ game – and this is an ideal way to link the Armed Forces to football, to link into communities, to prevent us from being seen as separate.
“The Armed Forces Covenant is not about special treatment – it’s about recognising the unique nature of service life and providing a level playing field and together in this we can make a real difference and I look forward to developing closer links between the clubs and you all.”
Brian Barwick, Chairman of the National League, said the new links would allow the clubs and the military to develop projects together which would be mutually beneficial.
In November last year Barwick signed the covenant on behalf of the National League and Major General John Crackett, Assistant Chief of the General Staff, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence . Aldershot Town became the first football club from the National League to sign.
Barwick added: “It’s a no brainer to get involved in this. I’m delighted our clubs are signing this too for the Vanarama National League.
“We should commit ourselves to helping the Armed Forces and I think the Armed Forces can be beneficial for us, inspiring people – and our own people can inspire them too – it will be a great partnership.
“I think it’s important to convert words into action, it generates opportunities and good will for this project. Football is the people’s sport followed by millions, it’s absolutely appropriate that we get involved in something like this.”
Lieutenant Colonel Guy Benson, Project Officer for the initiative from the Army’s Regional Command, said that although only six clubs had signed the covenant at the event, that this was a “symbolic” signing – and that it was hoped all the league’s other clubs would also soon sign up to the project.
The event was also attended by Brigadier “Mitch” Mitchell, MBE, Chairman of the Army Football Association; Major General (Retired) Shaun Burley MBE, Director of the Army Sports Control Board, and Colonel Richard Maybery, Deputy Commander of Donnington based 11th Signal and West Midlands Brigade.