Sands United FC is a unique way for dads and other bereaved family members to come together through a shared love of sport and find a support network where they can feel at ease talking about their grief when they're ready.
The teams also commemorate their babies' all too brief lives by proudly displaying their names on the kit worn for every match.
And each team member helps make a difference by raising vital funds to help Sands achieve its vision of a world where fewer babies die and when a baby dies anyone affected by the death receives the best care and support for as long as they need.
Our dream is for a Sands United FC team in every corner of the UK so if you're interested in setting up a team please get in touch so we can support you in making this happen.
Watch Sands United on BBC's The One Show (available until 5 April).
Why Sands United FC?
Sadly, the death of a baby is not a rare event and every 90 minutes in the UK – the length of a football match - a baby dies shortly before, during or soon after birth.
When a baby dies the feelings of loneliness and isolation can be overwhelming and having other bereaved parents to talk to is vital, but dads can sometimes be overlooked or struggle to find ways of getting support that suits them.
Sands is here for anyone affected by the death of a baby, through our free helpline, online forum, and network of local support groups and Sands United FC is a vital part of our bereavement support services.
We know that some men can struggle to talk about how they're feeling after the death of a baby. We hope that by building trust and a common bond, by playing together as a team, many more will be able to break their silence about baby loss and help others to do the same.
Playing team sports can aid the grieving process by helping lift someone's mood, give them a focus, help with sleep problems, and reduce feelings of isolation. Sands United FC has already saved the lives of men left feeling like they had no one to turn to in their grief.
The history of Sands United FC
The first Sands United FC grew from grief after Charlotte and Rob Allen’s baby daughter Niamh died on 9 October 2017 at 39 weeks and 3 days.
The couple vowed to do all they could to honour their daughter’s memory and ensure her legacy lived forever on, and Rob’s love of football led to him organising a football match at Northampton Town FC in aid of Sands on 23 May 2018.
After the success of the match, the bereaved dads, uncles and brothers decided to form Sands United FC, in Northampton’s Nene Valley League.
Since forming, Sands United FC has been regularly featured in the media and was firmly in the spotlight on 5 December 2018 when they were honored with a Pride of Sport Award for Best Team.
The team have established close links with Northamptonshire Sands and team members continue to receive support from the Group. They have also raised more than £5,000 for Sands and are planning another fundraising football match in 2019.
Sands is now working with Rob and Charlotte and the team to develop Sands United FC into a model that can be rolled out across the UK, so that more bereaved families can set up teams to channel their grief, raise vital funds for the charity, and help break the silence around baby loss.
Find out how you can get involved in Sands United FC
Can I form my own Sands United FC?
Yes! We are very keen to encourage more people to set up teams around the UK. We are still working on how to make this as easy as possible and don't have all the answers yet but we'd love to hear from you so please get in touch to register your interest.
I've already set up a team / seen a team in my area.
It's great that you or someone in your area are so keen to get moving with Sands United FC!
We want to help you have the best possible experience and are here to help with things like setting up and managing your team, knowing how to support other bereaved team members, and making sure you are using the Sands name and brand correctly.
Please get in touch today so we can support you on your Sands United FC journey.
How do I form a women's Sands United FC?
It would be brilliant for bereaved mums and other female family members to set up teams, so do get in touch to discuss your idea.
Can I only set up a football team?
You can set up any kind of Sands United team you like. We started with football because that was the chosen sport of the original Sands United FC. Do get in touch so we can talk about your ideas and help you make them a reality.
I'm a journalist - how do I get in touch with the original Sands United FC about their success?
We can help put you in touch and make sure you get the right information about Sands and the work we do. Please contact our press office and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.