Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Stevenage FC Academy have announced an expansion of their long-standing community partnership, now in its seventh year...
As the second lockdown begins, the club’s apprentices are acting as role-model rail passengers, helping GTR to promote the wearing of face coverings by young travellers. Research shows that young men especially are more likely to underestimate the risk of catching or transmitting Covid-19, and are therefore less likely to wear a mask or covering than others.
GTR is supporting the club’s 40 current apprentices with free travel on its Thameslink and Great Northern services between their home stations and their places of study and training. Some of the 17- and 18-year-olds could not afford to attend otherwise.
Stevenage Football Club not only provides Thameslink with pitch-side and programme advertising space, but its Academy players join in as volunteers with GTR’s other local community support activities.
Last year players supported the train company’s Great Sock Appeal, which collected over 4,000 new pairs of socks for people using local homeless shelters over Christmas. Stevenage’s apprentices promoted the campaign and collected socks for distribution by the Helping Herts Homeless charity.
Tom Moran, Managing Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “People who need to travel can rest assured that we’re keeping our trains and stations clean and safe with long-lasting viruscides. All passengers must wear a face covering at all times, at the station and on the train. This includes young people who might not be affected so severely by Covid-19 themselves, but are just as likely to catch and transmit it.
“We work a lot with young people, to provide confidence building and upskilling opportunities that make a difference to their lives. This partnership with the Stevenage FC Academy not only allows young sportsmen to take up opportunities they would otherwise not be able to enjoy but now it is helping us spread this important message: wear a face covering to protect everyone around you.
"We are looking forward to working with the Academy on even more community initiatives this year,” added Tom.
Robbie O’Keefe, Stevenage FC Academy Manager, said, “GTR has been an excellent partner for Stevenage Football Club since we started to work together in 2014, especially for the young men at our Academy, allowing them to develop both on and off the field.
“We have young men from a wide range of backgrounds and some wouldn’t be able to attend training and games if it wasn’t for GTR’s involvement. The partnership also allows our apprentices to give back to the local community through volunteer activity, and at this challenging time they will be proud role models for safe travel by train.”
Apprentice Obi Onyeagwara said, “My train pass from GTR has been invaluable for me during my apprenticeship at Stevenage. I have to travel by train every day for training and games and the pass enables me to focus fully on working my hardest to try and gain a professional contract.”
Academy graduates who have benefited from GTR’s travel support in past years include defensive midfielder Arthur Iontton, now in Stevenage’s first team squad, Ben Wilmot, now at Watford, and Doncaster’s Fejiri Okenabirhie.
Arthur Iontton said, “The train passes were a massive help during my time as an apprentice in the academy at Stevenage. They meant I could attend all training sessions and games, which had a hugely positive impact on my development. Without this opportunity I’m not sure I would have developed as a player as much.”