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Loneliness Awareness Week

'Pre-match socials have given me mental strength'

14 Jun 2021
Aston Villa, Villa & Proud

How Villa & Proud's virtual pre-match meet-ups have connected fans across the globe during the pandemic

This Loneliness Awareness Week, we are looking at how Premier League clubs have been working in their local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep people connected and to help those at risk of social isolation.

Aston Villa

While isolation has proven to be a challenge for many during the past year, members of Villa & Proud, the official Aston Villa LGBT+ supporters' group, have reached out and engaged with fellow fans across the globe.

The Villa & Proud online Pre-Match Socials, which have been running since June 2020, focus heavily on mental health, tackling isolation and promoting inclusion – key objectives to also help fans feel closer to the club.

"The pre-match socials have kept me going through lockdown," says Michelle.

"They've introduced me to some amazing new friends and made me feel even more like a member of the Villa community.

"Knowing there are other LGBTQ+ Villa fans brings a kind of mental strength that I didn't know I needed."

Keeping spirits up

One of these socials took place before Villa's match with Leicester City in February, when some Villa & Proud's members from as far afield as the United States met up with fellow LGBT+ supporters group Foxes Pride.

"In a time where people are being kept apart, it is a wonderful way to bring fans together and keep spirits up," US Villa fan NJ told the official club website.

Villa & Proud launched in November 2018 and now has over 2,700 followers on social media. They were recently shortlisted for the Football Supporters' Association's Fans For Diversity Award along with Villans Together.

For more information about their Pre-Match Socials or to become a member of Villa & Proud, follow them on Twitter or visit their website.

Get involved

People can get involved with the #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign, which raises awareness of loneliness and to support those who are socially isolated at this time.

For tips on what you can do and to find out where to get support, visit the LetsTalkLoneliness website.

Also in this series

Part 2: Shaun helping others thanks to Sheff Utd support
Part 3: Southampton keeping Senior Saints connected
Part 4: How Brighton gave Joe a lifeline in lockdown
Part 5: PL Primary Stars encouraging children to get in touch
Part 6: Watford allowing generations to come together
Part 7: How Wolves used music video to combat isolation

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