Sands United FC
1656. Rob Allen
Rob Allen, from Northampton, is the founder of ‘Sands United FC’, the nationwide movement encouraging men who have lost babies or children to come together and share their grief through football.
Rob’s love of football helped him with his grief after he and his wife Charlotte lost their baby daughter Niamh at 39 weeks in 2017. To help ensure Niamh’s legacy lived on, Rob organised a football match with Northampton Town FC in 2018 to fundraise for ‘Sands’, the UK’s leading stillbirth and neonatal death charity who provide support to anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth. Following the success of this match, he was inspired to set up a club for other bereaved fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and other people affected by baby loss 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 are ready. There are now over 30 ‘Sands United’ teams across the country, with each team commemorating their lost loved ones by displaying the names of their babies on their kit.
This award coincides with the start of the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship.
In a personal letter to Rob, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“I want to thank you for everything you are doing through ‘Sands United FC’ to support men who have experienced the tragedy of baby loss. I am full of admiration for the strength you and Charlotte have shown since losing Niamh. The way in which you are helping others is a wonderful tribute to her.
“With over thirty teams now across the UK, you have created a space for thousands of bereaved men to look after their physical and mental wellbeing together. As Euro 2020 finally begins and this great tournament returns to our shores for the first time in a quarter of a century, I wish you and your team mates a fantastic summer of football.”
“I’m honoured to accept this Points of Light award and to be recognised by the Prime Minister for the support ‘Sands United FC’ has provided to bereaved men and their families affected by pregnancy and baby loss. This award really is for all of the dads, grandads, brothers, uncles and all the team members and supporters who have put so much time, effort and passion into building Sands United FC teams across the UK since our first Northampton team was set up in 2018 in memory of our baby daughter Niamh. I know myself how hard some men can find it to talk about how they’re feeling after the death of a baby. I 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. As Patron of Sands United my dream is for there to be a Sands United team in every corner of the UK.”