Covid recovery for grassroots football club from village near Leighton Buzzard is no Mission: Impossible after help from Tom Cruise

Hollywood actor signs Woburn and Wavendon FC shirts which are sold off for £150 apiece in crowdfunder campaign

Monday, 17th May 2021, 2:35 pm

A fundraising campaign by a football club that has seen its income decimated during the pandemic received a surprise boost from Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.

Woburn and Wavendon FC, one of the oldest and largest football clubs in the area, was initially downbeat when they were asked to vacate one of their pitches to make way for the arrival of the actor and his Mission: Impossible 7 film crew.

As previously reported by the LBO, Cruise caused a stir last Wednesday (May 12) when his helicopter touched down at Heath and Reach Sports Field where he posed for photos with fans before being driven off to nearby LB Silica Sand quarry for filming.

Several Woburn and Wavendon FC teams play on that very pitch and just as they were gearing up for their return to action in line with the March 29 roadmap relaxations they were given the news that Heath and Reach Parish Council had signed a deal allowing the film crew to takeover the field for a number of weeks while filming took place.

However, to make up for the inconvenience the actor agreed to sign some Woburn and Wavendon shirts which were added to the "rewards" donated by local businesses to support the club's crowdfunding campaign four-week campaign has already reached its original £12,000 target just eight days since it was launched, with two actor-signed shirts quickly snapped up for £150 apiece. A third shirt is to displayed in the clubhouse. However, with the British wet weather hindering shooting of the movie, the club has been told they will be kept off the field for an extra week or two and are considering a further approach to the production company in the hope a few more signed shirts could be sent their way.

Fundraiser and volunteer coach Wes Williams said: "The location manager approached the parish council. It's their pitch and we just play on it. Now Tom Cruise is using it as a car park for his helicopter! We asked if there was any chance any of the cast could sign some shirts, we wasn't expecting it to be Tom Cruise!

"We got three. Two have been sold and one we're going to put up in the clubhouse. We've been told now we can't get back on the pitch for another two weeks, so we'll possibly chance our arm to see if we can get any more. We've got a few sponsors who said they'd want one, but we don't want to be too cheeky!"

Tom Cruise signed three Woburn & Wavendon FC shirts.

He added: "It was difficult to know what to price them up at. They are very unique to our club. We did them for £150 but one person who bought one donated £350 on top. The club is financially stable, but we run boys and girls tournaments each year which would have brought in £30,000, plus additional sponsorship. That is a big hit for what we can do in the future."

Club chairman Robert Hill admitted it had been a blow when he received the news that football had been put on hold for those teams based on the Heath and Reach pitch.

He said: "In March the relaxations allowed grassroots football to start up again, but before we even started the parish council, our landlord, told us they had arranged to let out the car park and the playing field and we'd got to find somewhere else to go.

"It's an inconvenience, but we suggested the signed shirts and the site manager said he'd do his best!"

Of the crowdfunding campaign, he added: "We've had some amazing gestures. A lot of people have done us some huge favours. The income from the tournaments is a huge loss - £30,000 over two seasons. That's a lot of money. The club isn't going to fold, but a lot of improvements and little extras to better football in the community would have suffered."

The club's crowdfunder states: "Covid has seen the decimation of two consecutive football seasons. This has had a significant impact on revenue generated from three main areas: club tournaments, sponsorship, and subscriptions.

"Our club run four of the largest and most successful football tournaments in the country. Our boys and girls events have traditionally not only delivered masses of fun, friendship and football every year, they have also provided a very important income stream.

"Cancelling our tournaments has cost the club approximately £30k in revenue over the last two seasons, which combined with reduced sponsorship of around £5k makes it imperative that we try to raise money to safeguard current and future community initiatives.

"Their loss, combined with reduced subscription income, means that these highly valued yet costly community initiatives may have to be reduced or stopped at a time when they are needed most."