By Owen Morgan
Welsh footballers and fans left twiddling their thumbs have been offered a chance to get competitive again – and raise funds for local food banks and NHS staff.
Ammanford AFC have come up with a brilliant idea for the football-starved during the coronavirus crisis, with an on-line tournament called The DAIsolate Cup. #TheDAIsolateCup
The Welsh League Division One outfit has set up the FIFA video game tournament, which they hope will involve 128 football clubs from all levels the length and breadth of Wales.
Through Twitter, clubs are invited to nominate one player – be it fan, committee member or actual footballer – to represent them in the tournament, which will even be streamed live on-line.
As well as providing some much needed football action – albeit virtual – the tournament will raise funds to support NHS staff in Wales and a local food bank of the winning team’s choice.
If all the places are taken up, with clubs paying the £10 entry fee, both causes will received a total of £640. But it’s hoped to totals will go much higher than that with a Just Giving page set up for any fans who also want to contribute additional funds.
Ammanford’s commercial and marketing manager Jason Pocock said: “The reason we’ve created the tournament is to try and get people’s minds off things.
“I’d seen something similar on Twitter the day before with Leyton Orient – the Ultimate Quaran-Team – and I think they’d had quite a few professional clubs sign up. So I thought ‘why not do it on a lower level’.
“All our boys are going to be without football for at least a month, it’s probably going to be longer. So I thought we’d get teams from within our own league involved and have a 20 team competition, or something like that.
“Then we thought we’d do a straight knockout, so we’d need 32 teams. But when we posted that, a couple of companies got involved straight away and donated some prizes and it went from there.”
All Wales Sport website donated cash prizes of £100 for the winner, £50 for the runner-up and £25 for the losing semi-finalists.
Dai Sport are the title sponsors, Cardiff-based men’s grooming company Mesoa offered a grooming package for the winner, while Riley Sports Photography donated a trophy and Picton Sports will be providing a commemorative t-shirt for the winner.
“Then AGFX.tv got in touch,” said Pocock. “They do all the graphics for the Pro14 rugby games and for Sgorio.
“So, you know when you see the FA Cup draw, you see all the team names down the side when the balls come out of the hat? They will make the names come up like that and make it look professional.
“They phoned and said they would do that for us for free along with all the teams’ logos, graphics and basically help us with the live steaming aspect of the competition.
“So, now it’s gone from 32 teams to almost 64 paid-up clubs in there. So the next step then, if we’re going above 64, it will have to be 128!
“There are a lot of teams interested, so we’re either going to push for 128 and delay it slightly, until everyone’s up and running, or we’re going to put the first 63 clubs in automatically and then there will be a pre-qualification for spot 64.
“We were looking to do the draw this Sunday, but I think it’s fair to say that is going to be delayed now, it’ll be some point next week.
“The graphics company are ready to go, so now it’s a push to get some more teams. I just want to raise more money. If we can get another 64 teams in to push it to 128, that would be £1,280 for charity, which would be phenomenal.
“I’ve set up a go-fund me page for people who are not entering to donate. Hopefully people who are watching the live streaming, football fans around the country, can donate, even if it’s only a pound or 50p, it will all help.
“It was originally set up as something to pass the time and have a little bit of a morale boost for the clubs within our league, but the response has been absolutely amazing.
ONE LAST PUSH…
WE ARE WAY PASSED OUT INITAL 32 TEAM TARGET AND WE’VE BEATEN THE 64 TEAM MARK. WE NEED ABOUT 30 MORE TEAMS TO GET TO THE 128 TEAMS NEEDED FOR A STRAIGHT KNOCKOUT ROUND!
PLEASE GET IN TOUCH WITH US VIA DM TO ENTER!
— Ammanford AFC (@AFCAmmanford) March 21, 2020
“We have been really shocked and pleased at the same time. You couldn’t ask for anything more really.
“There’s even a hairdresser, I think from Pontypridd, and they said they can’t really give a prize out for a haircut if somebody wins up in North Wales, but they will donate a £25 Easter egg hamper and send it out to the winner as well. For a small business like that to get involved as well, it’s great.
“It shows how strong community spirit is within the football clubs in Wales as well. Most of the people who have seen the tweets are probably football fans, I don’t know whether it’s got a wider audience yet, but we’re really pleased with it and excited by it.”
The tournament has already been providing some much needed footballing competition within teams around Wales, says Pocock.
“What’s good is that a lot of clubs are having in-house tournaments to find their best player. It’s given them a bit of a morale boost already.
“I notice there was one team on Twitter, their coach was in the changing rooms doing a little draw for their own tournament.
“I think they’ve got about 20 players trying to get through and find their best player before they enter ours. So that’s great as well.”
The club, which hit the headlines last year by signing former Swansea City stars Lee Trundle and Andy Robinson, are used supporting good causes locally.
The competition fits in perfectly with club’s ethos of being at the heart of the community, something that was perfectly illustrated when a crowd of 1,200 turned up for a recent Welsh Cup tie against Caernarfon.
Over the past year the club has assisted with the setting up of the Jac Lewis Foundation. The charity has been set up to provide well-being and mental health services in the town following the popular player’s tragic death.
Pocock says: “If you engage the community, they come out and help the club, and when they come out and help us by giving us higher attendances, then we are able to do more for the community in turn.
“It’s like a circle, we say we’re definitely a community club. One town, one team is one of our hashtags.
“After the Caernarfon game, I know we lost, but one of the committee members said in the club after the game, ‘the team may have lost but the town won’. You couldn’t have summed it up any better.
“We had 1,200 people to come out and watch a football game in a town of 5,000 people so more than 20 per cent of the town’s population were out watching it and that’s absolutely tremendous.
“It shows that if you engage with your community, your profile builds, then you are able to do things like this and you are able to reap the rewards and give back as well.”
The club has also enlisted the help of old Magic Daps Trundle himself, and his large social media following, to try to attract more teams.
“I’ve literally just texted him now to see if he could give a bit of a push for it. I don’t know if he’s handy with a Play Station, but he’s re-tweeted that for me.”
Ammanford’s tournament has inspired other clubs around the country to launch their own fundraising initiatives in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, including Gwent Central League’s Mardy AFC.
A club WhatsApp group chat discussing the Ammanford tournament sparked one of their players, Matt Wham, to suggest they donate their playing subs to a good cause, even though they wouldn’t be taking the field due to the coronavirus.
Committeeman Matt Collins suggested they followed Ammanford’s fundraising lead and donate £5 each – the price of their subs for a home game – to a local food bank.
Another player, Ricky Gorman put forward the name of Abergavenny Food bank, where he volunteers.
Collins said: “Chris Price, who is our chairman, asked who would be interested in donating a fiver each on WhatsApp and the thumbs ups just rained in. Within an hour we had about 20 people saying ‘yes, that’s a great idea, let’s do it’.
— Tumble United (@AfcTumble) March 20, 2020
“Chris was showing me on his phone, the donations were coming in and people were donating more than five pounds. It was really impressive.
“We racked up, I think, just shy of the £200 mark, but there were more people to chip in. Within an hour we had 14 boys donating and after that it was like a snowball effect. We had people from outside the club, partners and others donating into it as well.
“Chris contacted the lady at Abergavenny Food bank and apparently she almost burst into tears she was so grateful. It was obviously a relief for her.”
Collins says the club has always tried to support the local community which has helped to support them.
“We are acutely aware that we are quite a small community in a very small town, so we are always keen to be doing things for the community.”
As well as running annual community fun days for many years, last year the club organised a memorial match at short notice for a former player, who had passed away, in order to help fund funeral costs.
Of the latest venture, Collins said: “With coronavirus being so disruptive in terms of sport, we thought it was a good opportunity to give something back to the community.
“As a club we are quite fortunate with our ground rent and things, that we don’t have to spend the vast amounts of money that some of the clubs we know of have to.
With the nickname of ‘Jo Fifa’ it was an obvious choice..⚽️
— Clwb Pêl Droed Drefach (@CPDDrefach) March 20, 2020
“But even so, we were taken aback and very happy to see how keen people were to do it.
“It’s like trying to draw blood from a stone to get subs out of some of them sometimes,” joked Collins, “and I’m sure a lot of clubs will relate to that!
“But we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who were going above and beyond the fiver as well. It was just really nice to see.”
The club has also entered two teams into The DAIsolate Cup.
The above are just two examples of the kind of work done by all kinds of community sports clubs the length and breadth of Wales to help support their communities in these difficult times.
Anyone wishing to get involved in The DAIsolate Cup should contact Ammanford AFC via the club’s Twitter account.