With just a few days to go before Ammanford AFC opens its doors for the National Lottery Football Weekends, the club has declared National Lottery funding as lifesaving.
Not only did the club receive vital funding as part of the over £12.5 million provided by The National Lottery during Covid to help it and other clubs survive when fans couldn’t attend games, but National Lottery funding has also helped towards the Jac Lewis Foundation wellbeing centre, built within the club’s grounds.
The Jac Lewis Foundation was set up in 2019 after a former player lost his battle with mental health and took his own life in the February of that year. Jac was just 27 when he died and now the centre built in his name provides free services including counselling, play therapy, wellbeing workshops, training courses and a space for people to get together.
Rhodri Jones is the club vice-chair:
“As a club, we were hit directly by a mental health tragedy when Jac died. A group of friends decided to get together to form the charity and then launched the counselling service.
“During the pandemic, the demand went through the roof with people feeling isolated or worried about unemployment or of course suffering from bereavement. Jac didn’t get the support he needed and we didn’t want anyone else feeling like that. This way, we can make sure people get the help they need, close to home.”
The Foundation – which has also received more than £19,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund – opened last year and now employs a full-time counsellor with a further 40 trainee counsellors providing support to local people.
Now – in a thank you to National Lottery players – over 100,000 free tickets are available on a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ basis to National Lottery players for selected local matches across three weekends in March and April. The offer will be available for Ammanford AFC’s clash against Swansea University on Friday 1 April.
“It was such a relief to get the funding for the club from The National Lottery during Covid. It meant we didn’t have to worry about the club and any spare cash we could invest in the wellbeing centre. It has been a huge priority for us and we’ve seen how it has benefited people already.
“Jac was one of my best mates and he’d have loved what’s been done. The football club was his second home – he loved it here.”
In Wales, The National Lottery Football Weekends campaign will mean people can watch games in the JD Cymru Premier and JD Cymru North and South leagues for free. It aims to get people out to watch and really get behind their local team, perhaps for the first time, and experience the vital role these clubs play as part of their local community.
At the height of the pandemic and when football and sport shut down, clubs struggled for survival as they lost turnstile income and other matchday revenue. In response, The National Lottery provided over £12.5 million of emergency funding to community football clubs at this level across the UK, including Ammanford AFC to help them continue to operate and survive.
The National Lottery Football Weekends is to thank National Lottery players for stepping up when they were needed the most. The special ‘Buy One Get One Free’ ticket offer will be available to National Lottery players for a game at one of the 231 participating clubs in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.* The ticket offer will apply to one home match for each club, taking place between 19th March and 16th April.
The campaign will be delivered in partnership with the FAW (Football Association of Wales), National League, The FA (Football Association), The SFA (Scottish Football Association) IFA (Irish Football Association) and is also backed by well-known ex-footballers Ally McCoist and Karen Carney.
To find out more about The National Lottery Football Weekends and to find your nearest match visit www.thenationallotteryfootballweekends.co.uk.
Each club will be responsible for distributing tickets for its home match and details on how to claim will be available from each club. Terms and conditions apply.
The money for this campaign, as well as the initiatives with the various FAs and leagues across the UK during Covid came from a National Lottery promotional fund, it was not funded by money allocated for National Lottery Good Causes or by Camelot.
The National Lottery has also worked alongside Non-League Day, a campaign set up in 2010 to encourage supporters of clubs playing at the highest levels of the game to support their smaller local or non-league club and sample the unique matchday experience of football at local level.
The National Lottery has always played a vital role in supporting elite, community and grassroot sport in the UK. Including football, The National Lottery has invested more than £5.7 billion into grassroots sport since it was established in 1994. In the last year nearly £395 million was given to grassroots and elite sport good causes, funding everything from facilities to playing fields and creating opportunities for everyone to get active and improve their lives through sport.