Leeds fans raise £40,000 for food banks in pay-per-view boycott
Leeds United fans boycotting watching their team play on pay-per-view TV have raised £40,000 to support local food banks.
With Friday night’s Premier League game at Aston Villa available to watch only on BT Sport Box Office for a fee of £14.95, the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust (LUST) has been encouraging fans not to pay and to donate the money instead.
By 6pm on Friday – two hours before kick-off – the Leeds Fans Foodbank had received just over £40,000.
LUST vice chair Graham Hyde told the PA news agency: “We’re absolutely blown away by it.
“Before Monday, we’d raised over the course of 18 months to two years £31,650 – we’ve more than doubled that in the space of five days.
“It’s mindblowing, but at the same time we’re not surprised.
“Leeds fans when they come together like this are phenomenally powerful in terms of how they support their community, how they support each other and how generous they can be.”
Many fans of Premier League clubs were dismayed when it was announced they would need to fork out extra on top of their Sky and BT Sport subscriptions to watch October fixtures not slated for regular televised coverage, leading to calls for a boycott.
Mr Hyde paid tribute to the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) for coming up with the “great concept of tying the boycott of pay-per-view to food banks”.
The NUST raised more than £20,000 when fans boycotted watching their side’s pay-per-view fixture with Manchester United last weekend.
Mr Hyde added: “No matter which club you support, there are individuals who are looking to support their local community and I think because football is something that brings together people from all walks of life, it brings together people who are then willing to stand up and be counted to help each other.
“So whether it’s Newcastle United Supporters Trust, whether it’s Liverpool fans, Everton fans – for five years, Liverpool and Everton have been working together on supporting food banks and there ain’t many things that Liverpool and Everton fans get together on.”
The drive comes as Marcus Rashford, who plays for Leeds’ cross-Pennine rivals Manchester United, is dominating the news for his efforts to pressure the Government to provide free meals for children who need them over the school holidays.
“It seems almost like an alien thing to do but I think most Leeds fans would very much doff their cap to Marcus Rashford and the amazing work he’s doing in terms of trying to end child hunger,” Mr Hyde said.
“We can ignore the fact that he plays for them.”
Mr Hyde said the £40,000 donated would provide 32,000 meals through the Leeds South And East and Leeds North And West food banks, which operate under the Trussell Trust.
“That’s a huge, huge impact on families that will be vulnerable and in need at the present time in Leeds,” he said.
“That will be feeding families in the coming months, particularly up to Christmas and over winter, which will be the most challenging time for many, many vulnerable families.
“We’ve massive increases in people turning to food banks for the first time as the impact of the furlough scheme ending and potential further lockdowns means families that haven’t been vulnerable in the past are finding themselves in these situations.”
Villa fans boycotting Friday’s pay-per-view coverage were being encouraged by Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust to donate to the Aston & Nechells Foodbank.
In a tweet, the food bank said it was “overwhelmed” by the support from fans.