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Play football at a safe distance with Manchester United Foundation’s Play Safe campaign

The Foundation launches coaching advice about playing football again safely, supported by adidas. 

| by Rebecca Mee

Alongside charitable efforts, Manchester United Foundation has continued to find new ways of delivering our projects to communities. Supported by Manchester United’s global partner adidas, Play Safe provides coaches, teachers and young people with the tools to play football again at a safe distance.  


As restrictions ease, the Government and The FA have relaxed measures to allow coaches to work with groups of five players. Play Safe includes a full coaching document, worksheets and videos to ensure coaches and teachers are equipped for a smooth transition into football’s new normal.


Physical activity continues to play a huge part in a child’s development and the introduction of social distancing measures during this difficult time can lead to an increase in adverse experiences, impacting dramatically on a young person’s mental and physical health.


The coaching document can be accessed via the Foundation’s website and includes 21 warm-ups, drills and games making over 300 combinations that can be adapted for all age groups and abilities.  


Former Manchester United player Russell Beardsmore helped to formulate the drills. He said: “As we transition to the new normal things are going to look slightly different. These Play Safe activities give coaches, teachers, parents and children ideas for different football drills they can play at a safe distance.”


He continued: “There are hundreds and thousands of sessions you can do, however the idea is to include activities that people can use for all different age groups. Hopefully it’s going to benefit all coaches and teachers, not just those that work for the Foundation.”


Over the next few weeks Manchester United Foundation will share eight videos and worksheets highlighting a mix of drills and games, which can be played at a safe distance. Russell, who now works as a Foundation BTEC coach at Eccles Sixth Form College, visited Old Trafford for filming.


Russell said: “This has been the first session back for me; I’ve missed it, it’s been a while. I’ve been coaching for 20 years and it’s a big part of my career. It’s been a little bit nerve-racking at times but if you follow government guidelines and use a common sense approach with the people you’re working with, it can be achieved in a fun and safe way.”


Students from Foundation partner school Stretford High School also took part in the filming. Maddi, aged 15, said: “We’ve learnt how to improve our football techniques so we can play with our friends at a social distance. It’s really good to be back here with friends today; it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. It’s been great because we’ve been able to play games with each other; it’s like being back at school again.”


Classmate Oliwa, 15, is nervous about transitioning to a new normal after lockdown. She said: “I do feel stressed because I know it’s going to be different from now on with social distancing, but today’s football session has been important so we can learn how to adapt to the new normal. It’s nice to know we can still play football and sports in teams, while keeping safe. I feel very proud to be here today, and delighted I could participate in this.”


The campaign adds to the ongoing response of Manchester United and the Foundation to the local community during Covid-19, including supporting our partners and the NHS through meal donations and food bank deliveries.


To access the Play Safe resources and for more information please visit