Hundreds of football fans joined forces and hit the road to Wembley on Sunday, 22 July, as Prostate Cancer UK’s Football March for Men made further strides to stop prostate cancer being a killer. Around 400 walkers put their best foot forward to help combat the most common cancer in men and ensured the charity’s flagship March for Men walking programme topped £1m for a second successive year.
For the first time, the number of men dying from prostate cancer every year has overtaken the number of women dying from breast cancer, making prostate cancer the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. Stepping up to the challenge, the leading men’s health charity recruited an army of walkers representing clubs from the Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and Non-League in London and the South East in four mega marathon marches, with the £200,000 target well within reach.
The Football March for Men saw legions of walkers setting off on the road to the iconic stadium, starting out from West Ham United, Millwall, St Albans City and Sutton United, all heading to the home of English football. The march to the arch took in 15 clubs, including Brentford, and created a fabulous finale, which saw World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst and fellow England legend Ray Clemence hand out medals to the proud participants.
Hurst, who has seen former international teammates Nobby Stiles and Mike Summerbee affected by the disease, said: “I think when you first hear the stat about how prostate cancer kills one man every 45 minutes you realise how big a disease it is and how important it is to continue to raise awareness of it, and raise funds for it, to be able to have research into it. When you narrow it down to that kind of stat it is really shocking. The walk was a great innovative way of getting people to support the charity. It was great to see all those walkers turning up at Wembley - it was almost like a cup final or even a World Cup final with all the different colours with different teams, and uniting everybody against this terrible disease.”
Clemence, a former Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper and Prostate Cancer UK ambassador, was delighted to see clubs from across the capital put their rivalries aside to back the charity. He said: “Wembley will always be a special place for me. I’ve been lucky enough to play at the home of football domestically on several occasions, had the privilege of captaining my country there against Brazil and have also coached from the sidelines,” said Clemence, who has himself been affected by prostate cancer. So, it represented a fitting finale for Prostate Cancer UK’s Football March for Men. I always had a warm welcome across the capital and it was terrific to see 15 clubs put their rivalries aside to walk side by side. It was a brilliant event and one that will really help raise awareness and shape change.”
London Stadium, home to the Hammers - Hurst’s former club - served as the backdrop to the East London leg of the march as Sir Trevor Brooking waved the walkers off, and the route also visited National League Leyton Orient before popping in on North London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Spurs fans were even treated to a glimpse of the new-look Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the company of legendary former goalkeeper Pat Jennings before the day ended at their current borrowed base, Wembley.
The South London starting point was The Den, home to Championship side Millwall, who earned national acclaim when they sported the Prostate Cancer UK logo on their first team strip in 2013/14. The route also took in Crystal Palace, Fulham, Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers before the finale and saw Quadrophenia actor Phil Daniels, former QPR and England duo Paul Parker and Andy Sinton, Crystal Palace legend, Mark Bright, ex-Chelsea, West Ham and England striker, Carlton Cole, and star of The Inbetweeners, Blake Harrison, lace up their walking boots and get involved.
Comedian and Sutton United fan Tim Vine kicked off the South West London leg at the Knights Community Stadium, which saw visits to AFC Wimbledon and Brentford, while the fourth starting point was Clarence Park, home of National League South side, St Albans City. Walkers also stopped off at Watford and Barnet in the company of former Hornet Richard Johnson before the final stretch to HA9.
The Football March for Men saw hundreds of football fans take on the baton from Jeff Stelling after the Sky Sports presenter, flanked by a cast of celebrities and civilians, walked more than 650 miles across 25 marathons the length and breadth of the country in the last two years, raising £800,000. Prostate Cancer UK’s march to the arch in 2018 provided a fitting climax to an exciting series of walking events as the charity extends its footprint across the UK.
On Father’s Day weekend, last year, the inaugural March for Men events saw over 1,600 walkers take to the parks of London, Leeds and Glasgow, raising more than a quarter of a million pounds. This year, across seven cities throughout the UK in June, more than 6,200 people pulled on their walking boots and converged on picturesque parklands up and down the country in Manchester, Liverpool, London, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds and Nottingham with a £1m fundraising tally in sight.
Angela Culhane, Prostate Cancer UK’s Chief Executive, who joined the Millwall leg of the march, said: “The Football March for Men was a fitting and fantastic finale to seven weeks of epic walking across the UK, and it was brilliant to see so many fans from so many clubs get involved. Mobilising so many supporters across four different routes spanning London and the South East showed the true power of football in bringing people together for a common purpose.
“The fight against prostate cancer, a disease that kills one man every 45 minutes, is a purpose worth uniting for. In the amount of time it took people to pound the pavements across the 26 mile routes, another dozen men will have died. It really hits home. Our walking programme caters for everyone, and has really caught the imagination this year from the seven city marches, to the Football March, and to our supporters arranging their own walks – all to help combat the most common cancer in men. We thank everyone who laced up their boots for us in 2018. It’s thanks to them that we can fund more ground-breaking research, provide dedicated support and information to men and their families and make prostate cancer a disease the next generation of men need not fear.”
The substantial sums raised by fundraising will help ‘shift the science’ and crack the three core issues of diagnosis, treatment and prevention, which have been left unsolved for too long. It will also help provide support and information to those affected by the disease. Many people are unaware that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. One man will die from prostate cancer every 45 minutes in the UK. That’s over 11,800 men a year. Based on current trends, if we ignore prostate cancer and do nothing, this number will rise to over 14,500 men a year by 2026. To find out more, go to prostatecanceruk.org/footballmarch.