Grassroots football team for grieving dads awarded with prestigious Pride of Sport gong

A team of Northamptonshire dads formed a football team this year to remember their late children.
A team of Northamptonshire dads formed a football team this year to remember their late children.

SANDS United, a Northampton football team for men who have lost children to miscarriage or stillbirth, have taken home the Team of the Year Award at the Mirror’s Pride of Sport Awards.

The awards, which are backed by Sport England, recognise the unsung heroes of grassroots sport and honour people who have gone the extra mile to help others achieve their goals.

At an awards ceremony in London this week the team - who now play in the Sunday league - won a prestigious gong.

At an awards ceremony in London this week the team - who now play in the Sunday league - won a prestigious gong.

SANDS United was started by dads devastated by the deaths of their children during pregnancy or shortly after birth in Spring.

Founder Rob Allen, 32, lost his daughter Niamh back in October last year after she sadly died in the womb three days before she was due.

Rob organised a charity match at Sixfields in May and brought together a team of other fathers who had lost their children to stillbirth and neonatal complications.

They played Eastern Eagles in front of a crowd of 300 supporters and raised £5,721 for the neonatal and stillborn charity SANDS, which supports grieving families.

He said: "I think men as a whole whether it's about feelings or baby loss they don't really ever open up. With family trauma men are lent on to be the pillar - that's built into men at a young age.

"It does not have to be football but giving men a way of getting together with like-minded people, they will naturally want to talk and the more we can do that the less it will be a taboo subject."

Each game is dedicated to their children and the players have the names of their lost babies embroidered on their football shirts next to their hearts.

Many of the players bottled up their feelings, suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but through the club the players have developed a support network and finally feel able to open up about their loss.

They have also raised more than £5,000 for the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.

Sporting legends and other famous faces from the worlds of sport and showbiz - including Jamie Vardy, Jenni Falconer and Sam Quek - attended on Thursday evening at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel for the awards.

"The Pride of Sport award was a massive achievement for us as a club it was not what we set out for, we did not set for recognition,” Rob added.

"To be recognised shows there's a need for it and a want for it."

Host, Ben Shephard, said: “I love grassroots sport, and the way it brings people of all ages together.

"The joy of sport, whether that’s the exhilaration of winning, or the sheer fun of playing a game with friends, is a wonderful thing to share.

"Pride of Sport celebrates everyone who makes grassroots sport happen, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”