Charity launches campaign to show blood cancer the ‘red card’ and find lifesavers among football community

Blood cancer charity DKMS is seeking to team up with football clubs up and down the UK in a bid to raise awareness of blood cancer, blood stem cell donation and to register donors. Football Vs Blood Cancer is a new campaign being run by DKMS because it wants to build on the success it has already had working with football clubs such as Everton.

Reason for campaign A blood stem cell donation is the only chance of survival for many blood cancer patients. Sadly, many patients will not find a matching donor. This isn’t because a match doesn’t exist, it’s simply because there aren’t enough people registered as donors. That is why DKMS works to increase the size and diversity of the blood stem cell registry.

It has launched Football Vs Blood Cancer because younger people, especially men, have a better chance of being chosen to donate, and it believes that the football community is one of the best places it can find lifesavers. The diversity of the football community is important too as patients are most likely to find a matching donor from a similar ethnic background but they often have difficulty in finding suitable donors.

Building on success with Everton DKMS has already successfully worked with the football community when it held donor recruitment events and awareness raising activity with Everton football club last year. This was inspired by the search for a matching donor for Finn McEwen, a little boy from Liverpool who needed a blood stem cell donation for his survival. A match was found for Finn, who is a huge Everton fan, and he successfully received a blood stem cell donation last year. Thousands of people registered as potential blood stem cell donors because of DKMS and Everton’s work together and it even led to a staff member of the club donating some of their blood stem cells to help save a critically ill patient.

Speaking about their work with DKMS, Everton Ambassador Graeme Sharp, who was part of the drive to encourage registrations for Finn’s campaign, said:

“As a Club we really got involved in Finn’s campaign and we saw a massive rise in people registering as a result of the appeal. Getting involved was really easy to do and we had great support from DKMS throughout.

“The news that Finn found a match really did make it all worthwhile. Coupled with helping Finn find a match, we were also able to see what happens from a donor’s perspective. One of our staff members was a match for someone else and their donation could go on to save someone else’s life.

“We still need many more people to register as finding a tissue match is very complex and the more people registered, the better the chance of more patients finding their lifesaving match.”

Patrick Ryan, who is leading DKMS’s Football Vs Blood Cancer campaign, said:

“Football has a huge and passionate fan base and inspires those who support it. In partnership with clubs of all sizes, we can reach a large proportion of the general public who don’t yet know how easy it is to save a life.”

“We had huge success working with Everton last year. Thousands of people registered as potential blood stem cell donors, and amazingly, a staff member was matched with a patient and gave them a second chance of life by donating some of their blood stem cells. We want to build on that through the Football Vs Blood Cancer campaign and find more lifesavers among the football community.”

Patrick wants clubs of all sizes to join the campaign and says that they can take part in a variety of ways including giving people the chance to register by holding match day swabbing events; raising awareness on social media; promotion within match day programmes and stadium screens/billboards; plus player/staff involvement.

You can find out more about the Football Vs Blood Cancer campaign at dkms.org.uk/en/football-vs-blood-cancer and can contact Patrick Ryan at patrick.ryan@dkms.org.uk or on 020 8747 5629.