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England fan turns down Euro 2020 semi-final tickets to donate stem cells and save a life

Sam Astley and Beth Hill

Last week, Sam Astley from Dudley, West Midlands, was hailed a real-life hero for passing up the chance of a lifetime to see the England football team play at Wembley to instead help save a life by donating his stem cells via bone marrow.

Sam joined the stem cell register at a charity event held by family friend and Anthony Nolan supporter, Simon Wilkes, who lives with the blood disorder, Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS).

Simon - a former football coach - held the event in memory of his son, Olly, who very sadly took his own life in 2017. A few years later, die-hard football fan Sam received the call that he was a match for someone in need of a stem cell transplant.

Fast-forward a few weeks and it came time to prepare for donation - preparation that just so happened to coincide with the Euro 2020 semi-final match between England and Denmark. A match that Sam’s girlfriend, Beth had won tickets for in a competition. But Sam passed up the opportunity of a lifetime, giving up the tickets to continue preparing for his stem cell donation, saying - ‘No football game beats saving someone's life.’

This act of generosity hit the headlines, and thanks to the incredible power of social media - and the wonderful people at official Euro sponsor, vivo Europe - Sam and his girlfriend were gifted tickets to Sunday’s historic final at Wembley.

Henny Braund MBE, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, says: ‘It’s wonderful that Sam and Beth were able to be there in person to watch England play this historic match. He has done an incredible thing and deserves all the plaudits he has received.

‘The real winner in all of this is the patient, somewhere in the world, for whom Sam was a perfect match. He has given them a second chance of life, and their family renewed hope for the future.

‘I’d encourage all the young men who have seen and commented on Sam’s story over the last few days to visit the Anthony Nolan website,, to find out how they too could, one day, be a perfect match for a stranger in need of a lifesaving stem cell transplant.’

Press release