Former West Ham and QPR defender Anton Ferdinand is fronting a new initiative which could help get fans safely back into football grounds.
Ferdinand and fellow ex-pro Jimmy Bullard, actor Tamer Hassan and TV star Calum Best are among the ambassadors for the charity Mask Our Heroes, and have been volunteering to hand out free PPE to care homes, hospices, schools and youth centres.
The charity has also staged a coronavirus-safe event at a central London designer clothes shop at which guests were given a Covid-19 test, with the results available in 15 minutes.
Mask Our Heroes believes the event could be a blueprint for getting people back to attend concerts, fashion shows and sporting events, including football matches, during the pandemic.
Ferdinand told the PA news agency: “At Mask Our Heroes we ran an event, and ran a system, that we think can help get fans back into football matches.
“It was a testing centre, and we all had a test which gave us a result in 15 minutes. It’s on a smaller scale but the blueprint is there, and it’s whether we get the green light to make the blueprint bigger.
“At the moment football is not the same. I was watching the Europa League last week and heard the fans at Rapid Vienna. We’re only talking 20 per cent of the stadium but just hearing the fans was unbelievable.
“I bet for the players it was a godsend hearing that. That’s what sets professional football apart. The pressure of the fans. That’s what it’s about, that’s what we live for. To go out on a Saturday and produce for the fans.
“How great would it be if we could do that? And use grounds as testing centres? We’re not saying we are going to put 60,000 in the Emirates. But let’s put 25,000 in there.
“You can test them, you can sanitise the stadium and give a 30-day guarantee that it’s Covid-free. With 25,000 people in a 60,000-seater stadium you can social distance.
“We are asking for an opportunity to test our method. Give us an opportunity. If you get 20,000 people at the London Stadium, they can all get tested. They’ll get sanitiser, they’ll get masks. It’s safe in an outdoor stadium.”
Ferdinand, 35, was speaking at a youth centre in Barnet where he dropped off boxes of PPE for the workers.
“It’s about helping places that need PPE,” he added. “The likes of care homes, hospitals, youth centres who need PPE to be able to keep on working. As we know PPE is very expensive, and we are able to give it to them for nothing.
“With footballers people are quick to go on about the negative side but we’ve shown we’re here to do the good stuff too. The likes of Marcus Rashford, what he is doing is phenomenal.
“Everything is going through the charity and we can help, whether it be cinemas, football stadiums, concerts, film sets. Let’s come together and do this.”