Blackburn Rovers Community Trust (BRCT) initiative ‘Remember The Rovers’ has received a £10k grant from the Sky Bet EFL Building Foundations Fund.

Founded in 2019 to provide a social lifeline to those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, ‘Remember The Rovers’ is set to receive a £10k grant from the Sky Bet EFL Building Foundations Fund, as part Sky Bet’s ongoing sponsorship of the EFL, involving a £6m commitment over the next six seasons.

Sky Bet visited the programme to speak to regular participants and record the impact that the programme has had on the local community. One man the BCRT has helped is close to the heart of the Championship club.

Tony Parkes, also known as Mr. Blackburn Rovers, has been described as a “bona fide legend at Blackburn”, with over 30 years’ service to the Lancashire club, including spells as a player, assistant and caretaker manager.

In February 2020, Natalie, Parkes’ daughter, revealed that he had received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. This disclosure prompted an overwhelming display of love and support from the football community. 

Tony Parkes with his daughter Natalie.
Tony Parkes with his daughter Natalie.

Natalie said: “People just think it’s forgetfulness, I wish it was. It goes from aggression, to just losing their vocabulary altogether – my dad has no voice now. He just couldn’t follow conversations, he felt lost, he was scared.”

Parkes quickly became a regular attendee at ‘Remember The Rovers’, which proved to be incredibly beneficial for Natalie’s father, bringing out the best in him and providing much-needed support for Natalie and other families.

Ben Howard, from Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, played a crucial role in establishing the initiative, with the programme utilising various activities such as quizzes and guest speakers to evoke memories among the attending fans.

Howard said: “There wasn’t much in the Blackburn area to help those with dementia and Alzheimer’s and we’re in a strong position due to the connection that our participants have with the club, which for a lot of people is their life.”

On 26 February, a panel of industry experts, including Sky Bet ambassador Jeff Stelling, reviewed and approved additional applications from other EFL clubs. These applications cover various community projects aimed at enhancing local sporting facilities and promoting the physical and social benefits of the game.

Gary Robinson, CEO of the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, commented: “The funds that we’re going to be receiving means our staff can commit the time to make sure it grows and develops and continues to offer a first-class service to the beneficiaries.”

Sky Bet visited a ‘Remember The Rovers’ session at Ewood Park in February 2024 to capture Tony’s story, producing a video explaining the impact that the programme continues to have in the Blackburn area.

The video also includes heartfelt contributions from Kenny Dalglish, who Parkes worked under during Rovers’ title-winning campaign in 1994/95, and Chris Sutton, who was part of the lethal SAS strike partnership that season.

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