Rob Allen, founder of the very first Sands United FC team in Northampton, grew from grief after Charlotte and Rob Allen’s baby daughter, Niamh, died on 9 October 2017 at 39 weeks and 3 days. To honour their daughter’s memory and ensure her legacy lives forever on, Rob’s love of football led him to organise a football match at Northampton Town FC in aid of Sands in May 2018.
Since then Sands United has grown to more than 30 teams across the UK.
The role of Patron will be vital in raising the profile of Sands United, to champion this unique way of offering bereavement support, and help more bereaved families come together through a shared love of sport and a network where they can feel at ease talking about their grief when they're ready.
Rob says: “I’m honoured to take on the role of Patron of Sands United and I’m excited to have this opportunity to work closely with Sands to make sure more people know about this unique way of offering bereavement support for anyone affected by the death of a baby in pregnancy, at birth, or during infancy.
“Sands United means so much to me personally. The very first football team helped me find a way through grief after the death of our baby girl Niamh in 2017 and I know it was a lifeline for all the players who joined that team and those that have formed across the UK since then.
“It’s a cliché but it’s true that many men who’ve been through pregnancy and baby loss simply don’t want to talk about it. At Sands United there is no pressure to talk if you don’t want to – simply being around other people who’ve had a similar experience can be an enormous help. If someone wants to share how they’re feeling it’s a totally supportive safe space to do that, but if people simply want to play together that’s ok too and sport can make a big difference to your mental wellbeing.
“My dream for Sands United is that it becomes a lasting legacy for Niamh and all the babies whose lives ended far too soon. In the future I hope that anyone who needs bereavement support can find a Sands United team wherever they live in the UK, and that this grows beyond football so that anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby can come together through a shared love of sport.”
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