Tackling loneliness project by Bristol Rovers Community Trust provides a lifeline for fans during coronavirus pandemic

  • Watch Cari Davies' report

Two Bristol Rovers fans say their football club has been vital in helping them get through a very lonely year. 

Despite supporters being unable to go to games since March, Audrey and Chris Butler, from Filton, have being keeping in touch through the Community Trust.

They say the support they have had from their football club has been a lifeline during the pandemic.

Audrey spent a decade being 'Captain Gas' Credit: ITV West Country

Audrey, who now has Parkinsons and dementia, used to be the club mascot. She donned the Captain Gas outfit for 10 years, entertaining crowds at matches and raising money through sponsored races.

She says she was given the role rather unexpectedly.

"It started when I was a cleaner, they asked me one day could I be Captain Gas, so they gave me the outfit and that was that."

The pair have missed spending match days at The Memorial Stadium, fans are still barred from attending in Bristol and Audrey and Chris have been staying home as much as possible due to the risks of coronavirus.

Chris says sometimes home feels like a prison, "it's like you've done something wrong and you're being punished. We've just had a new grandchild and we haven't seen it yet."

Audrey was going to regular meet ups at the ground before the coronavirus restrictions put a stop to them. They were organised through Bristol Rovers Community Trusts Tackling Loneliness programme, a project funded by the government and the EFL.

Because the physical meet ups had to stop part of the funding has been used to buy computer tablets so that members of the group can contact each other online.

Before coronavirus there were regular meet ups. Credit: Bristol Rovers Community Trust

First team players like Alfie Kilgour and Alex Rodman have been helping out, Alex says he feels keeping in touch with fans is crucial, "it's important to get out there and reach out to our Gasheads because they're such an important part of what we are here.

"I think the community aspect of Bristol Rovers football club is phenomenal and any way I can help I'm more than happy to do so."

Audrey and Chris are among the fans who've had doorstep visits from players and Community Trust staff members over the last few months.

It may still be some time before it's safe for them to return to the stadium, in the meantime the club is doing what it can to ensure they still feel part of their football family.

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