Brighton manager Graham Potter said he got the “easy version” of sleeping rough at a sleep out for local charity Off The Fence. Image: BHAFC/Bennett Dean
Brighton and Hove Albion football manager Graham Potter has slept rough in Brighton as the spotlight continues to be placed on the Premier League over support for initiatives to tackle homelessness.
Potter, his assistant manager Billy Reid and first-team coach Bruno got “an easy version of sleeping rough” when they slept out at Brighton’s St Peter’s Church on Friday for local charity Off The Fence’s Big Sleep Out.
Potter said: “We had an easy version of sleeping rough, but it still gave us an insight into the challenges the homeless community face on a daily and nightly basis.
“Having experienced just one night out on the street, I cannot imagine what it would be like suffering in this way with no idea of what the future holds or where the next meal might be coming from.
“There is a ridiculous stigma attached. These are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and they need our help and support. Many are suffering from illness, poor health and it is heart-breaking in 2021 that we still see people living on our streets.”
The gesture comes as the row over Shelter’s No Home Kit campaign continues.
Premier League bosses and clubs have faced criticism from the likes of former player and pundit Gary Neville for turning down the housing charity’s idea for clubs to wear away kits while playing at home in the traditional Boxing Day fixtures.
Last week, the Premier League said the plan was against the competition’s rules and club bosses voted to back the stance at a shareholder’s meeting on November 11.
The Premier League told The Big Issue clubs were free to support charities if they wish – as Potter did in Brighton on Friday – but not by wearing the away shirt in home matches.
Wolves, the other club who initially asked the Premier League to support the initiative according to the Daily Mail, also held a sleep out at home stadium Molineux over the weekend, raising £38,000 for the Wolverhampton Wanderers Foundation.
Shelter has stood firm despite the Premier League’s rebuff. Up to 17 clubs in the English Football League – the three divisions below the Premier League – have vowed to wear away kits in support of the campaign on Boxing Day, including Cardiff, Portsmouth, Forest Green Rovers and Carlisle United.
Osama Bhutta, director of campaigns at Shelter, said: “Like many, we are disappointed by the Premier League’s decision not to provide any flexibility to make this as big as it can be. But we hope as many different teams, players and fans – from the grass-root community clubs to the very top – will still get involved in whatever way they can to help fight homelessness with us this Christmas.
“People should have a safe home, and far too many don’t – that’s the biggest rule that’s been broken here.
“The football community is perfectly placed to help, given the importance of ‘home’ to the game. We are excited and encouraged that so many people and clubs have already pledged their support and will be wearing their away kits on Boxing Day – and we know more will follow.”
Fan groups that support people in poverty have criticised the Premier League’s decision. Last week Stuart Latimer of NUFC Fans Foodbank – a group of Newcastle United fans who collect food at home games to distribute to people in the local area – told The Big Issue he “hoped the Premier League can find it in their hearts to reconsider”.
Those sentiments were echoed by Manchester City’s equivalent MCFC Fans Foodbank Support.
The fans group’s co-founder Nick Clarke told The Big Issue he could recall Manchester City playing in their away kit on the last day of the 2004/2005 season in their home fixture against Middlesbrough.
“So if they can do it for commercial reasons, then I’m sure they’ll be behind playing their part in a small gesture in opposition to the crisis that has hit Manchester particularly hard over the last 10 years,” said Clarke.
“It’s just really upsetting. This just seemed like an easy win in a year when some of the most naked examples of greed in the Premier League have really come to the fore but also, at the same time, fans groups and players have been so on it really in so many different ways.”