Why did Phil Jagielka carry a robot onto the pitch?

When Everton captain Phil Jagielka held a robot in his hand before Everton’s match against Newcastle United last Monday, a few people thought it was particularly strange – until we found out the reason behind it, which was amazing.

Everton used the world’s first ever ‘virtual mascot’ as a robot, and gave a young fan who is too ill to travel to Goodison Park a chance to lead his beloved blues out. It is a state-of-the-art robot called AV1.

Jack McLinden, 14 and a lifelong Everton fan, suffers from multiple health conditions, which severely restricts his mobility.

A camera, microphone and speaker on the Norwegian-made device allowed Jack to experience being a mascot. Credit: Reuters
Jagielka carries out the small robot onto the pitch at Goodison Park. Credit: Getty Images

The robot is connected to Jack’s iPad at his home, giving him the chance to sample the unique matchday atmosphere from his bed.

Jack McLinden, 14, experienced leading out his beloved Everton using the technology. Credit: Everton FC

After his side won 1-0, manager Sam Allardyce took Jack, along with AV1, into the post-match conference.

“Jack had the full experience today,” said Allardyce.”

Everton boss Sam Allardyce examines the robot at the post-match press conference. Credit: PA

“He went out on the pitch with Jags [Phil Jagielka] and he saw everything that went on with the warm-up. He also did a piece with Sky so he wanted to finish off the press conference. If you are listening Jack, well done for the 1-0, mate.”

This was an astonishing gesture from the football club, and is a great story for all involved, which can hopefully encourage all children with disability to get involved with the sport, no matter how serious their condition is.

It really was a great idea that can now potentially be repeated around the world to ensure that those people who cannot be there in reality, get to have an opportunity to realise their dream of being a mascot.

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