Grenfell Athletic FC

A community unified: Grenfell Athletic FC

Adam Fowler
Staffordshire University student, Adam Fowler, discovers how football has revitalised a broken community in West London.

10 months on from that fateful day in West London, local Sunday league football team – Grenfell Athletic FC – embody the character and fight still left in what was not so long ago, a broken community.

On the 14th of June 2017, 71 lives were claimed as flames engulfed Grenfell Tower in Kensington, West London. 

Believed to have started on the fourth floor of the tower, the fire spread rapidly and eventually consumed the 27-story tower almost head-to-toe.

Emergency services were on the scene within minutes, miraculously saving around 65 people from the flames, though they were eventually deemed helpless to the sheer ferocity of the fire. 

After an agonising 24 hours, the fire was finally extinguished. 

The following weeks were tough, but from the anguish of the disaster, Grenfell Athletic FC was created. 

Grenfell Athletic was co-founded by former youth worker at the Rugby Portobello Trust, Rupert Taylor, 30. 

Taylor told me: “The team isn't a statement; the team is for unity. 

“It’s to bring local lads together and to give people guidance and support.

“A resident from Grenfell asked if I could support him in some way. He wasn’t interested in clothes or items, it felt like he was asking for more emotional support; the fire had a huge impact on him emotionally.

“He said football was what helped him through this difficult period, so I just suggested that together, we could make a football team.”

Within a few weeks, Grenfell Athletic FC was formed and now play week-in week-out in Division Three of the Middlesex County Football League, and for all the right reasons at that.

Taylor said: “The early stages were always to form a team, not expect any kind of results this season, in regard to going out, winning leagues or anything like that. 

“It was just about bringing people together and getting to train and play routinely. If we could do that, then we could potentially capture something golden and we have done.
“The first season has been a huge success.”

Grenfell Athletic welcome all-comers to train and play with the team and have also had a number of former Grenfell Tower residents represent them. 

Taylor said: “It’s incredible to have them with us. We’re unified and it’s important that every time we put on the badge we remember what it resembles. 

“The team is based on the community and bringing the community together, but the local area has undergone a transformation. 

“I’ve watched serious youth violence rise and go through the roof, and if there’s any way to combat that through sport, then here we are. 

“It’s been incredible having Grenfell residents actually in the team.” 

He continued: “The more mature residents said they were happy to support when needed but they can’t commit. 

“They’re trying to rebuild their own lives and support their own families – so the message was said that when they’re ready, this team will be there for them. A lot of the residents turn up to training.”

The West London football club has received a tremendous amount of support since their formation, ranging from Nike, to an ex Serie B team reaching out to help them in any way they can. 

Taylor has been overwhelmed by the amount of support the team has had. 

He said: “Nike chipped in, offering us kits and training kits. They got our logo printed on all the kits.

“I sent a friend of mine the idea we had for a logo and he created the final product. He charged us one pound for the logo. 

“Latimer Upper school’s deputy head, Richard Niblett was fully supportive and behind the team and what we stand for. He got us our training pitch as well as a match-day pitch. 

“We had Chris Jones, Chelsea’s first-team fitness coach, come over and train us off his own back. 

“The support we’ve had has been top class and I believe that can grow.”

Local resident and regular Grenfell Athletic player Dillon Reilly, 20, explained just how traumatising that night on Latimer Road was.

He said: “I was there on the night when the fire was happening.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that in my entire life and I don’t think I ever will.

“Hearing people scream, as well as all of the drama of the night will stay with me forever.”

However, the 20-year-old believes the community stayed strong following the disaster.

“There were lots of strong points. A lot of people have come down from all areas to show support.

“Chelsea’s first-team coach has come to train us. Ex Serie B team S.S. Virtus Lanciano, have paid for us to go on a trip to Italy to show their support towards Grenfell.

“We will be training and playing with them – using their facilities. 

“We’ve played with some of the firefighters as well. There is a firefighter who comes down from Milton Keynes to play to pay his respects as was he there, in the fire, on that night.”

Unfortunately, Dillon has learnt first-hand how hard it has been to deal with the tragedy.

“One of my close friends that I used to play football with, from the age of nine until we were 15, passed away in the fire. His whole family passed away.

“Another one of my friends that I see every day, his Dad passed. He used to train both of us at the Dale Youth Boxing Club. 

“It’s been hard.”

However, Dillon reiterates just how important the team has been for him and how it can be a helping-hand for many years to come.

He said: “Personally, I think it’s to have something so people don’t forget Grenfell. I feel like after the tower gets taken down, or maybe 50 years from now, Grenfell might not be as big of a name as it is now. 

“This football team will always be a reminder of what happened on that night.

“Our badge on our kits - a dragon around a tower - it has a big impact on the local community and can continue to provide help and support for others in the future.”

Before every match, Grenfell Athletic hold a minute’s silence to show their respects to those that passed on the 14th of June and as long as this team is playing football, the victims of Grenfell will never be forgotten.