Gary Lineker’s plea to the nation as NHS celebrates 72nd anniversary

Gary Lineker will lead sport's birthday tribute to the NHS after calling the nation back out onto our doorsteps to clap for carers.

Former England captain and Match of the Day anchorman Lineker wants “one big, final, nationwide clap” at 5pm on Sunday to recognise “all those who are working so hard and sacrificing so much” to keep Britain going through the pandemic crisis.

Famous names from football, cricket, rugby and other sports are expected to support the Thank You Together moment to mark the 72nd anniversary of the NHS being founded.

Leaders from the Football Association, England & Wales Cricket Board, Rugby Football Union and Team GB's Olympic mission have all backed the gesture.

Lineker said: "It is great to see football, along with cricket and rugby, coming together with the NHS, on its birthday, to thank all the key workers with one big final nationwide clap.

"So at 5pm this Sunday raise a glass, share a cuppa or, dare I say it, watch the football with your neighbours, friends or relatives.

“Applaud all those who are working so hard and sacrificing so much to keep us all going throughout this period.

"But think about how we can all help come together and start to build even better communities and a country we can be even more proud of."

Premier League stars have already raised millions for NHS charities through their #PlayersTogether initiative – a withering counter-punch to Health Secretary Matt Hancock's cheap shot that high-earning footballers should “take a pay cut and play their part” in the fight against coronavirus.

The clap for carers at 8pm on a Thursday night became an established ritual during the Covid-19 plague – and a focal point for unity among neighbours, streets and whole towns.

A week before the return of Test cricket, with England playing West Indies behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “As we prepare to stage the first international sporting competition in the UK since Covid-19 began, we want to join with the NHS and the other major sporting bodies to say #ThankYouTogether.

“Throughout the #raisethebat Test Series, we will show our gratitude with players wearing the names of key workers on their training shirts to shine a light on their bravery and sacrifice as fans watch live from home.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the way cricket clubs have responded to this crisis. Despite being unable to play a single game of cricket and in the face of major financial uncertainty, they continue to support their local communities and have together raised over £300,000 since May.

“This crisis has shown us that the spirit of the cricket family is stronger than ever and united, we will come through this.”

RFU chief Bill Sweeney said: “Rugby, like the wider sporting community and the nation as a whole, is extremely grateful to and proud of all those who have worked tirelessly through this pandemic going above and beyond to support local communities and the NHS.

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“We have been inspired by many stories across the country showing spirit and resilience in these challenging times to ensure that we will come through this together and emerge stronger.”

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