Manchester United has hosted the very first stadium sleepout in the iconic Munich Tunnel at Old Trafford in support of those facing hardship this winter.
Sixty supporters swapped their beds for a sleeping bag, uniting to raise vital funds and awareness for young people experiencing poverty and difficulty during the winter months.
Funds raised from the event will be split between Manchester United Foundation and Centrepoint, a charity that supports homeless young people, as both organisations look to help those who are living in crisis.
Fans braved the freezing December temperatures to gain an insight into the issues surrounding homelessness, and the challenges facing young people in poverty.
On behalf of the beneficiaries, John Shiels MBE, chief executive officer of Manchester United Foundation, and Julie Milnes, director of fundraising at Centrepoint, addressed supporters about current societal issues and the collaborative work being done by both organisations to improve the circumstances of young people.
“This club was built on the success of youth, and whether that’s on or off the pitch, there’s no better way to honour that legacy than here, sleeping out in the iconic Munich Tunnel.
This winter will be incredibly difficult for many young people across the UK, and I am truly grateful to everyone that is here with us tonight braving the freezing temperatures.
Their dedication means we can continue our work in supporting the most vulnerable in society and helping them to make positive choices in their lives.”
Julie reiterated John’s sentiment adding: “We are incredibly grateful to the Foundation for choosing to support Centrepoint at today’s sleepout, and for everyone who has swapped their beds for sleeping bags on this very cold evening so that fewer young people have to.
“These challenging and uncertain economic times are pushing many people to breaking point – especially vulnerable young people who continue to be dealt a bad hand.
Money raised from today’s sleepout will go a long way towards helping them turn their lives around, and in supporting our wider mission of ending homelessness for good.”
Coronation Street actor and supporter of the Foundation, Antony Cotton is also swapping his bed for the night. “I’m thrilled that Centrepoint has linked up with the Foundation with the idea of ending youth homelessness because they’re two groups of people that I love and respect. It’s a really nice partnership and people will get to find out more about both organisations.”
During the evening, participants were given the opportunity to listen to real-life calls made to Centrepoint’s Helpline, as well as writing a message to a young person experiencing homelessness.
United fan Liv said: “Having the chance to experience and see what homeless people, and particularly young people, have to go through every night – not just one night – I figured that one night would be worth a go.
“People couldn’t believe I was doing it on my own, but bar the coldness, that’s something else that those young people have to go through – you don’t know who it is that you’re going to be sleeping next to in the evening, which was a big thing for me as well.”
Fellow Reds supporter Gavin said: “I’m a massive Man United fan. It’s about awareness, breaking stigmas – particularly with homelessness – and at this time of year at Christmas and in the cold weather. Until you’ve experienced it [sleeping rough], I don’t think you’ll ever know how it feels.
“It’s that education element where you have to walk in the shoes of a homeless person to realise it, and if you do that, you will gain a better understanding and perceptions will change.”
Alongside fans, Manchester United executives and staff members also bedded down in the Munich Tunnel to help raise awareness of youth poverty and homelessness, while supporting the two charities. Moreover, club partners also kindly donated both time and items to the event. Contributing partners include:
– DXC Technology – Presenting Partner of Manchester United Foundation – brought 16 of their staff members to the event to help raise awareness.
– Chivas – Official Spirits Partner of Manchester United – will provide a well-deserved breakfast for participants the following morning.
– Sportsbreaks.com – Official Supporter Travel Supplier of Manchester United – had five staff members attend and provided all supporters with a thermal mug and hat to keep them warm throughout the night.
Donate to support those sleeping out: bit.ly/MUsleepoutdonate