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Friday, February 24, 2012
It’s a funny old game – and hundreds of footballers will prove the cliche next month for Sport Relief.
Twenty five-a-side teams, representing every top-flight club, will go head-to-head to play out an entire Premier League season in one day.
Nine months of footballing highs and lows – from the optimism of August, through the congested Christmas period, to the nailbiting May run-in – will be crammed into just 12 hours on March 17.
The man behind the project is Kirk Lanckmans, of Bowthorpe, who organised the first tournament with colleagues in 2010 after deciding his work charity effort needed to be more ambitious.
He said: “We had done all the usual things, and we raised £1,000. I just thought ‘I’m sure we can do bigger and better than that.
“To raise more money, we needed to get lots of people involved, and nearly everyone loves football so we hit on this idea.”
That tournament raised £20,000 for Sport Relief, and Mr Lanckmans’ goal is £25,000 in 2012. He already has the backing of several sponsors, including his employer, Anglian Home Improvements.
The self-confessed “spreadsheet geek” says he enjoys the logistical challenge keeping 20 squads of 12 players on schedule over eight pitches at the Football Development Centre in Bowthorpe.
“We run it like a military operation,” said the 31-year-old. “Each team plays 38 matches of eight minutes, with four minutes off between games. All the teams know their pitch numbers, and we have stewards telling them where they need to be next.
“It’s a really long day and it becomes more about stamina than football by the end.”
The fundraiser has already been backed by several Premier League club, with Norwich City offering support, Everton and Liverpool donating kits and discussions ongoing with 2010 supporters Chelsea and Sunderland. Norfolk FA are also behind the idea and will provide referees on the day.
But the tournament may not offer much for Canaries fans seeking an omen – in 2010 Stoke City pipped Fulham to the title, while Manchester United only just avoided relegation in 17th.
Mr Lanckmans added: “There’s such a great sense of camaraderie on the day. We all go home and ache for a week, but everyone is happy.
“There are no nasty tackles or red cards, because everyone is there for the same reason: to have a good time and raise lots of money for a fantastic cause.”
There are still opportunities to get involved as a referee or steward on the day.
To donate, visit http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/premierleague