Did you know in the UK, every 90 minutes a baby will die before, during or shortly after birth? That’s the same length as a football game. That’s why BWOC employee Peter Byrom set up a new football team in Bristol called ‘Sands United Bristol FC’ to support dads who have suffered the loss of a baby.
This amazing team is supported by the charity ‘Sands’ (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity). The aim of Sands is to support anyone affected by the loss of a baby, much like those involved in the football team.
Peter Byrom has been responsible for setting up the team in Bristol after his past experiences. In January 2004 Peter and his wife Denise suffered the tragedy of a stillbirth when at a scan at 27 weeks into their first pregnancy, no heartbeat was detected. Peter says of the experience ‘…when the doctor delivered the news in 4 cold words ‘your baby is dead’ I felt I stopped breathing and everything in the room turned black and my wife and I just began crying…’ Their son Thomas was stillborn 3 days later.
It was 14 years before Peter looked for support and found it at the local Sands group in Bristol. In just a year since joining the group Peter has followed the example of the original Sands football Team in Northampton and set up the team in Bristol as a way of providing support for other bereaved dads, brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews and grandads who have gone through the same experience.
Men can often struggle to talk about how they are feeling, especially after the death of a baby. The Sands United teams provide a safe environment for men to be able to talk about their experience of loss with other men and join together in their love of football.
Their angel babies are never far from anything they do with the team, and at Sands United Bristol, the players gather together at the start of each training session for a moments silence to remember their babies. Their playing shirts carry a squad number chosen by each player and the name of their baby underneath. Peter plays with the number 27 which represents the number of weeks into the pregnancy his wife was when they lost their son and with the name of their son ‘Thomas’ underneath the badge.
The team have been lucky enough to have attracted the interest of Bristol Rovers Community trust who are now the sponsors of the teams home shirts and have helped provide the ground for their launch game.
Sands United Bristol are still looking for players and sponsors for the team. So if you know anyone affected by the loss of a baby who might benefit from joining the team (or one of 20 around the country) please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the team on social media (search for Sands United Bristol on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram).