Sands United

Sands United is a football team for men who have lost children to miscarriage or stillbirth, helping them to deal with their grief, depression and PTSD.

They are unified in grief – dads devastated by the deaths of their children during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Each game is dedicated to their children, and the players have the names of their lost babies embroidered on their football shirts next to their hearts.

Many grieving fathers bottle up their feelings, which can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But through Sands United, formed this year by Rob Allen and named after the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, these players have developed a support network and finally feel able to open up about their loss.

Rob and wife Charlotte's daughter Niamh was stillborn last year. He came up with the idea of forming the team after arranging a fundraising match to support Sands.

Oliver Earby, 27, who lost his daughter Minnie, says: “Men don’t talk about it down the pub. It’s the last thing you do. But once you open up you realise you are not the only one going through it.”

Jake Bull’s daughter Olivia was born at 21 weeks and lived for just an hour before dying in her mum Kirsty Briggs’ arms.

Describing those dark days after suffering the heartbreak, he says: “Kirsty would come in from being out and I’d be sat in a ball on the floor sobbing my heart out not knowing what to do. I’d sometimes walk in from work and find her broken.

“A lot of people didn’t want to talk about it, not many would hear me out. I lost quite a few friends as nobody was really there for me when I needed them.

“So when I met a bunch of guys in the same boat as me it really helped me open up. I was always a ­confident person but it really shook me. The club has given me my confidence back.”

His sentiments are echoed by fellow player Leon Gavin, 25, who lost his son Nolan at 36 weeks. He dreams of seeing a host of Sands United teams around the country. He says: “Because of Sands I have memories, I have mementoes of my son.”

Sands United have also raised more than £5,000 to support the charity they are named after.

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