QPR boss Mark Warburton claims football had its “head buried in the sand” when the pandemic first hit a year ago.
Warburton still feels the sport in general can do more but the response from his players and EFL clubs up and down the country has shown just how important football is to the wider community and it has also helped reconnect with fans.
The EFL has its fifth annual Day of Action on Wednesday and QPR should be proud of their contribution as players have made calls to fans, supported food banks and Warburton even helped deliver Christmas lunches to the homeless.
Warburton said: “People have to understand how important football can be in the community. Clubs can make such a difference because football can reach out and help.
“Clubs have to recognise that responsibility and, for me, it’s a vitally important day and we can do more going forward on all sides to make sure that significance is well recognised.
“We should be proud of our football pyramid. Nothing else in world football comes near it. But we were in grave danger of that falling apart at one stage. I’m sure many clubs are still in financial turmoil.
“Personally, I think we could have done more and there will be more difficult decisions ahead, more hurdles in front of us and yet football is such a powerful force and it can help on so many levels.
“It’s not just about winning and losing. When you work for a club, you have to contribute on and off the pitch. It’s not just taking the plaudits when you win, it’s about playing your part in the community and football has a unique ability to be able to do that.”
Warburton was one of the most powerful voices during lockdown as he felt football was losing touch with reality, he has a unique outlook having worked outside of the sport as he had a successful job in the City before going on to manage at top clubs.
Londoner Warburton has seen at close hand his players making calls to supporters, often those who have been struggling with health issues or because of the pandemic and he feels both sides have benefitted while football must never take fans for granted.
Warburton added: “I felt very strongly at the time. I felt as if football was going round with its head buried in the sand while the rest of the world was crumbling because of the pandemic.
“It was worst than first feared, you see businesses failing, airlines going bust and major industries in turmoil and football carrying on regardless.
“We live in a very privileged world, the goalposts have moved and yet football was just carrying on in some ways as if nothing had happened. Of course football has a big role to play.
“The players were magnificent. They were not a quick ‘hello, how are you?’ Eberechi Eze has left us now, but he was on one call for more than an hour, others for 45 minutes talking to people, trying to give them a lift. It can be worth its weight in gold.
“My mum is 90 years old and she’d say: ‘ Fulham are playing tonight. Tottenham are on the telly.’ It’s great because it’s something to look forward to. But I think football has a chance for a reset.
“Football plays such a huge part. We recognise that now. We’ve only really realised that because it was taken away from us. It’s important than when it comes back properly that we don’t take it for granted.”