Football players often delight fans with their talent on the pitch. However, they aren’t always held in the highest esteem amongst those outside the ‘football bubble’ so you might be surprised to hear about the contribution some players make to their local communities.

As the coronavirus pandemic affected millions around the globe it brought out the best in some people. Football players are no different, and some players have been doing all they can to support others.

The likes of Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling used their platforms to highlight issues that go way beyond football. Rashford’s activism even forced the UK Government to make a policy U-turn on their decision not to extend free school meals during school holidays.

Meanwhile, players from the 72 EFL Clubs across England and Wales have been supporting local initiatives. One of those players is Will Vaulks. 

Will, a Cardiff City FC Community Foundation Ambassador, was recently announced as the PFA EFL Player in the Community 2021. The award recognises the positive impact players can have ‘off the pitch’ and is given to those who go above and beyond what would normally be expected, either due to the breadth of involvement or for the depth of support for one particular project.

As the pandemic unfolded, Will looked for ways to contribute to the local effort. From supporting NHS workers through the ‘Feed the NHS’ initiative to fronting the #BluebirdsFromHome learning festival, Will has been extremely charitable with his time.

Last year, Will got behind an initiative to help keep healthcare workers fed and watered whilst responding to the outbreak of coronavirus. He championed the project, securing donations from fellow players and club sponsors and delivered vital supplies to healthcare workers in South Wales. 

As our Foundation education programmes moved online, Will created content for our #BluebirdsFromHome learning festival helping children to learn, be active, and develop important life skills. He called teachers to thank them for their extraordinary efforts to support home learning and care for the children of key workers. He even joined our wellbeing calls to check in on vulnerable young people, offering words of encouragement and support.

Will’s brand of social action reflects his modest personality and his committed playing style. He genuinely wants to understand the issues and is willing to put in the hard yards to support the team effort. He’s somewhat uncomfortable with the deserved praise he’s received and prefers to draw attention to the cause he’s supporting. He recognises that his job means that others look up to him and understands that with that comes a responsibility and an opportunity.

Ultimately, he just wants to make a difference.

As the country begins to open up, we are going to need to address the issues laid bare by coronavirus – issues around inequality, poverty, discrimination, and access to public services.

Footballers have proved that they are not only part of the conversation but part of the solution too. I look forward to working together with Will to raise awareness of the issues and support others to build healthier, prosperous, and more equal communities.

- Gavin Hawkey, Foundation Director