Screenings hosted at Sale FC’s Carrington clubhouse – aimed at 14-35 year-olds – will be offered to 200 of the club’s members and their immediate families. (Photo Credit: Gareth Lyons)

 Across the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of June, National One club Sale FC – in collaboration with Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY)  – will offer free heart screenings to 200 of the club’s members and their immediate families.

The screenings will be for people aged 14-35 as Cardiac Risk in the Young aims to prevent sudden cardiac deaths through awareness, screening and research.

On the charity’s website, it states that every week in the UK, at least 12 young people die of undiagnosed heart conditions. In 80 per cent of cases of young sudden cardiac death (YSCD), there are no prior symptoms of a heart defect.

CRY offers subsidised cardiac screenings and the way to diagnose most cardiac abnormalities is by having an ECG (electrocardiogram) test and for extra clarity, an echocardiogram (an ultrasound) can also be done.

In relation to Sale FC, the screenings and the efforts behind this coming weekend have been spearheaded by the club’s Chair of House Committee Joanne Bambrick and fellow House Committee member Suzie Roberts.

“Originally, we wanted to raise £6,000 as that is the cost to have 100 members screened,” Joanne explains.

“To get to that point, we had our ‘Ladies Day’ in 2023 and 2024 and that has become a brilliant event and fundraiser for us. We had signed shirts from players and auctions to raise the money we needed.

“Myself and Suzie then did a Cotswold Way challenge [in June 2023] which is a 50km walk. The club did a lot of social media around that and we logged our journey.

“Somebody in the local area called Deborah Dixon – who lost her son Aaron to an undiagnosed heart condition – saw what we were doing on social media.

“She has a charity and matched our target and donation. That helped us increase our offering to 200 members to be screened this weekend because Deborah uses her funds specifically for doing cardiac screening through sports clubs. I don’t think Deborah would have picked it up if we had not done the walk. She has been phenomenal.”

Each year, Sale FC select a charity to support and over the last 12 months, Cardiac Risk in the Young has been their focus.

Mark Roberts, husband of Suzie and Club Secretary at Sale FC, lost close family member Charlotte Orwin to an undiagnosed heart condition.

And Joanne feels that emotional and personal attachment has brought an already close community even closer.

“I think people understand the importance of it and to catch something so young,” Joanne says. “Cardiac health isn’t something which just impacts older people. You might associate it with that but that isn’t the full story.

“The screenings are for ages 14-35 so we have offered it to the first team, to the Ladies team, to the Vikings [Sale FC’s 2nd XV] to all our Colts players. It takes in most of our teams’ age profiles.

“Also, there have been a lot of people in the community involved and without that at National One level, we wouldn’t be able to raise the funds we have.

“When we have done our fundraising, ‘Ladies Day’ is something we advertise through the community and we get a lot of ladies who attend who would not normally come to a rugby match.

“They are then maybe bidding on shirts because they know it is for an amazing charity. On ‘Ladies Day’ this year, we took £1,400 in sales of players’ signed shirts. That tells you a lot.

“We go with the #OneSaleFC. It is something that goes right from the top to the bottom of the club and it shows that this is a club that wants to care for you.”

And that community aspect – combined with the awareness raised by Joanne and Suzie – means all 200 of the club’s heart screening slots have been taken up this weekend.

“Yeah they went quite quick,” Joanne adds. “We sent out an internal link which saw about 160-170 people sign up.

“We have members WhatsApp groups, newsletters and Keepy [Jonathan Keep – Sale FC Director of Rugby] and PK [Paul Kelly – Sale FC Chair of Rugby] were really good at sharing it with the first team and with the girls to make sure they were all booked.

“There is also a lady who has booked on. Both of her sons play at Under-15s and Under-16s and they are both going to be tested. People understand this is something we have fundraised for and is important.

“We then put the link out to the wider community and the good response continued.”

As Joanne alludes to, it isn’t just within the rugby club where young people will benefit from this fantastic initiative. With local Taekwondo and Cross Fit clubs also stationed at Heywood Road, they have had the chance to access the cardiac screening.

Joanne and Suzie in Cardiac Risk in the Young T-shirts prior to their walk last year.

“We have realised that it doesn’t just necessarily affect rugby,” adds Joanne. “It is much wider. We are hopefully giving these young people an opportunity for something that could be potentially life-changing.”

This weekend at Sale FC will undoubtedly be another important step in raising awareness for cardiac health.

Joanne admits the club have ‘never done anything like this on this scale before’ but the close-knit community at Heywood Road is again coming together for an extremely good cause.

“Our House Committee works really hard to make sure things like this weekend can happen,” Joanne says. “It has come down to a whole club effort. Although myself and Suzie were driving the projects at the start, it has taken every one to be involved.

“Cardiac Risk in the Young is becoming more prevalent within society and we do see it in the press. It is an important issue and as a club, it has brought people together.”