Liverpool City Council: working with our premier league football clubs

Liverpool City Council has partnered with its two Premier League football clubs to help engage local people in rapid testing. Testing sites have been stationed at the grounds of Liverpool and Everton, offering tests to supporters on match days.

Working with key partners like these has proved invaluable in getting to those hard-to-reach communities.

From national pilots to working with the clubs

Liverpool has been at the forefront of the rollout of rapid testing. The council helped to pioneer the use of rapid testing in November 2020 when it took part in a national community asymptomatic testing pilot. The city was also involved in the two trial events in spring 2021 to trial rapid testing for the opening of nightclubs.

But alongside the national pilots, the council has also been overseeing an extensive programme of ongoing rapid testing for its local population through its network of sites. At one point there were five main hubs and a host of satellite sites, including the council’s seven one-stop shops and local venues such as church halls and sports centres. There were three rapid response vehicles (RRVs) that could be deployed across the city too. These have been sent everywhere from supermarket car parks to green spaces.

The RRVs – two converted vans and a caravan – also proved to be invaluable in the work done with Liverpool and Everton football clubs. That started even before fans returned to stadiums at the end of the 2020-21 season. The council set up one of its five major rapid testing centres at Anfield, home to Liverpool Football Club. As well as offering testing to the public, club stewards were also offered testing on match days.

Once fans returned the council started deployed its RRVs to offer rapid tests to fans attending the games. Staffing at local testing centres was also beefed up on matchdays to cope with demand – two of the one-stop shops are located near the grounds alongside some of the other satellite centres.

Marine Operations Manager Ian Kay, who worked closely with the football clubs on the work, said:

The football clubs were great – they immediately saw the importance of testing and worked with us to encourage supporters to get tested.

“When COVID passes were brought in under Plan B we saw huge demand in particular, close to 10,000 people a day were being tested around the grounds. The clubs gave us the postcode locations of fans who were attending so we could make sure we had extra staff deployed to the centres near those neighbourhoods.

“The communities around the football clubs are ones we had been finding hard to reach so working with Liverpool and Everton gave us a legitimacy we would not have had, particularly among male fans. The COVID passes are no longer needed now but we are continuing to deploy the RRVs as the clubs are keen for us to continue.”

Using shopping centre to engage young people

The football clubs are not the only trusted partners the council worked with. A testing centre was also set up at Liverpool ONE, the main shopping centre in the city. Liverpool ONE leased a retail unit to the council for £1.

Angie Redhead, the council’s City Assets Manager, said: “They recognised the importance of rapid testing as a way to reassure customers and get people back shopping. It wasn’t branded as a council site, it was seen as part of Liverpool ONE. We were phenomenally busy, particularly in the lead up to Christmas. The site was carrying out 9,000 tests a week at one point.

What was particularly pleasing is that we were reaching a younger population than we had been – the 25 to 35 age group. We had one young woman who put a video of herself getting tested on TikTok – it went viral. Things like that have a big impact.

Liverpool Director of Public Health Matthew Ashton agreed the work with both Liverpool ONE and the football clubs has been vital in breaking down barriers.

“The risk with something like rapid testing is you get the inverse care law – the people who least need it are the ones who come forward the most. That is so often the case with public health which is why it is important you are innovative in how you reach out into communities. The work we have done with these key partners is a great example of that.”

Schools and the next steps

The rapid testing teams also played a key role in supporting schools with one of the testing centres setting aside space to help train school staff in how to administer the tests.

Public Health Head of Policy and Strategy Gavin Flatt said: “Schools were being asked to do extensive testing at the start of the school year. It was a lot for them to take on. They had the option of getting a third party involved to do the testing, but that was expensive so we offered them the chance to train up a member of staff with the thought that they could then support others at their school.”

Once Plan B has ended and testing requirements changed, Mr Flatt said Liverpool started scaling back its testing network. There are now just two main testing centres and the three RRVs. “I think what we have done is help the local population get used to using these tests and in turn break the chains in transmission,” he added.

Contact details

Gavin Flatt
Head of Policy and Strategy
Public Health
Liverpool City Council