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Hope United:
How football is spreading joy

In support of BT’s ‘Hope United’ campaign, BT Wholesale launched a competition back in June to find the UK’s most deserving football teams. It was an opportunity to spread hope across the football community and promote Hope United’s message of tackling online hate and a vision of a hate-free future. We had over 60 nominations for teams up and down the country and were overwhelmed by the response. 


Earlier this month, it was our pleasure to announce Kettering FC Kites as the well-deserved winners. It is an inclusive team that supports children in care, those with behavioural difficulties, children of different social backgrounds and some that are new to the game. Prior to the first lockdown, the team had a disappointing season which, coupled with the anxiety felt by the players due to COVID-19, meant confidence was at an all-time low. It became apparent that when lockdown measures eased, football was a hugely important means of escape and a source of happiness for what has become a close-knit team. Since getting back on the pitch, the team has been training with fun and smiles. 


We spoke to the coach, Aaron Tebbutt, to get his thoughts on Hope United, what it means to run the team, and what the prize money will be used for. 


What made you start coaching Kettering FC Kites? 

“I started coaching the team about 18 months ago. The team weren’t getting the results they wanted and were one day beaten 16-0. I didn’t want the team to disband so I took over with the aim of making football fun. I wanted to give kids time on the pitch to improve, but also to work on the life-long bond that I will hope they will form. I’m being rewarded with the faith that myself and my helpers have shown in them. We won our first league last season, and we also started the first game of this season with a win too!”


How has sport provided an outlet for the children you coach?

“Football is a release, an opportunity to forget everything and concentrate on playing a game that they love. Some of the kids had anxiety and fears about returning to ‘normal’ after the lockdowns, but I’ve found a couple of hours dedicated to fun, football and exercise has been hugely beneficial. It has been immensely rewarding to see them all growing in confidence and ability.”


How will you use your prize money?   

“I’m still over the moon and can’t believe my team was awarded the 1st prize. The money will keep the team going for two to three years! We’re buying some new kit and it will also allow me to organise a treat of some sort, whether that’s a day out or an evening bowling. We’re planning something special that ordinarily we wouldn’t be able to do. With everything that’s happened in the last 18 months or so, it’s great to be able to bring them some positivity and good news.”


What did you think when you heard about the Hope United initiative?

“I first saw the Hope United initiative during advert breaks when watching the Euro’s and they certainly made me sit up and take notice. It’s made clear the severity and impact of online hate, and the fact that it effects everyday people. The superstars that were in the advert really brought that home. I’ve since talked to my team about the campaign, and I hope that the message makes them think before sending any negativity.” 


What would you say to anyone who is thinking about engaging in online hate? 

“It’s important to remember that behind each Twitter, Facebook or Instagram profile is a human being with feelings. Lots of online messages are sent without considering if they would say such a thing in person, and the effect that it would have.”  

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