Time to Change Buckinghamshire Hub was the featured charity sponsor at the Wycombe Wanderers vs Burton Albion football match at Wycombe Wanderers Club in December. With up 5,000 people attending this was a great opportunity to  get people talking about mental health and to tackle stigma. 

Written by Time to Change Bucks Coordinator, Lorna, and Champions Willow and David.

What was involved in planning?

Planning the match was a big undertaking. We needed to work out how to deliver our message succinctly and clearly for a large-scale audience. 

  • We worked closely with the football club team, particularly the Head of Media, who helped us work out how to make an impact, and deliver our message effectively, at the match.
  • We obtained funding from Buckinghamshire County Council for the event. We evaluated funds and drew up a budget, planning everything in accordance with this budget.
  • Finding enough Champions to support, volunteer and help out on the day was also a crucial task. 
  • We found new support from The Samaritans, a number of whom came forward and said they would help us on the day. We realised The Samaritans and Time to Change messages aligned - look out for your mates and keep talking about mental health.
  • Planning what activity to showcase our message on the day was another task. Talking to the teams at Wycombe Wanderers Football Club, Bucks Mind, Bucks County Council, and Champions, we brainstormed our options. It seemed like a good idea to build a Santa’s grotto,  where we could display posters and give out prizes. In the end we decided to have ‘lucky dip boxes’, full of ‘snow’ (polystyrene beads), chocolate, glow torches, stress footballs.

What resources did you use?

  • We used funds from Bucks County Council, Champions’ time and expertise, Champions sharing their stories, the footballers themselves and the pitch, to deliver our message at half time.
  • We created flyers to give out to the masses. These had tips for talking and how to help people who may be struggling with their mental health this Christmas. We found a printing company who could print them.
  • We ordered personalised Time to Change Bucks merchandise, tops and stress footballs. We also bought Christmas decorations/costumes, polystyrene beads, sweets and chocolates for the lucky dips.

How did you advertise the activity and engage people?

Champions wore tabards with logos and Christmas hats. We walked around the stadium with Lucky Dip boxes, filled with prizes , talking to fans and staff. The boxes and prizes were used to initiate conversations. Lots of people did not want to take a prize but were interested in our message. Together, we made lots of opportunities to have conversations and share some of our experiences around mental health.

At half time, we walked out onto the pitch together, and Lorna (our Hub Coordinator) gave a short speech to all the fans. This was a particularly proud moment, because there was such a charged atmosphere. Everyone in the stands stood up and lit their torches, making the pledge we proposed (“We pledge to check on our friends this Christmas”). The level of connection and compassion that was held here – in and beyond the stadium – was incredible.

How did the activity go?

It was very busy. There was a lot of interest. People listened to our messages, and were able to engage with what we were saying. It was a very receptive audience.

What we learnt and would do differently next time

  • Next time, we would not use polystyrene beads. The lucky dips exploded and made a mess.
  • Perhaps we should rethink giving out chocolates/freebies.
  • We would see if we could get a free coffee or lunch from the venues where possible, especially in colder weather. Perhaps we could reward venues with certificates saying "We fed folk who took time to raise awareness & end stigma today".

Highlights of the day

  • The comradery and team spirit amongst Champions was invigorating, especially on a very cold day. There was a real sense of ‘togetherness’, that we had delivered our message and had been heard.
  • Our debrief at the end was also powerful. We discussed what went well, what we had learned. We were still cold, a bit tired, but elated by the impact we had made.
  • We connected with a large number of new people, and everyone who came to the match to watch football, went away with our message.

Champions experiences of the activity

We are proud to be Champions & part of something bigger! 

- Willow and David

  • I was apprehensive at first but found others involved who I already knew through Time to Change & other places.
  • The day was well organised & I felt supported throughout. 
  • My role was handing out leaflets & briefly explaining the reason for our presence at the Wycombe Wanderers match. 
  • People were receptive to us it felt as though folk listened & it felt welcomed & needed. 
  • The highlight of the day was folk agreeing to the check on your mates over the Festive period pledge after Lorna gave a powerful message to the fans & shining there mobile phone torches on on agreement which was very moving & emotional. 

All in all it was a successful day & it made me want to do it again & do more self led events in the future where I will speak & perform movement & poetry to raise awareness and end stigma. 

- Willow

  • I must admit I was terrified at first as this was my first time of volunteering on any level and my Anxiety levels shot through the roof but I was in good hands and great company for support.
  • My role was holding the Lucky Dip box and seeing people excited when they rummaged through the box was great. 
  • The response from the fans was awesome. 

The highlight for me was when Lorna gave a great speech while we were on the pitch, then when the fans shone their torches it was incredible & every hair on my body stood up. Wow. What a great day for a great cause & great Champions. 

- David