One man's joke prompted the Football Association to deny the rumor.

By Jelisa Castrodale
Updated July 14, 2020
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Everyone is trying to find ways to distract themselves during this insanely uncertain time of Zoom meetings, of suddenly having to home-school your teenagers, and of just bracing yourself for more terrible information every time you turn the television on.

Billy McLean, a 29-year-old London man, was just trying to give himself a laugh when he recorded a silly minute-long WhatsApp message about how the British government was going to start baking a gigantic lasagna at Wembley Stadium.

"Just so you know, my sister, her boyfriend’s brother works for the Ministry of Defense and one of the things that they’re doing to prepare [...] is making a massive lasagne," he said. "They’re putting the underground heating at Wembley, that’s going to bake the lasagne, and then they’re going to put the roof across and that’s going to recreate the oven, and then what they’re going to do is lift it up with drones and cut off little portions and drop them into to people’s houses, just to make sure that everyone's eating still."

McLean told The Guardian that he sent the clip to his soccer group, to his mother, and "to the girl [he's] trying to date." But before the afternoon was over, some friends and relatives that weren't part of his original WhatsApp list were sending it back to him without realizing that he's the one whose voice was on the recording.

A day later, the Football Association, English soccer's governing body, was forced to confirm that it did not have plans to use the 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium into a comically oversized, multi-story mound of lasagna.

McLean's misinformation was mostly harmless (unless you've been patiently waiting in your back garden for a slice of lasagna to fall from the sky), but he's since suggested that it's an example of how quickly this kind of thing can spread—and he understands that not every message is quite as innocent.

“If someone sitting at home in their boxers selling software can save a one-minute clip and make it go viral, you’ve got be aware that anyone can put anything out and it might not be valid," he said.

And although the home of England's national soccer team won't be used as a pasta distribution center, some of the country's most prominent players, managers, and clubs are trying to do what they can to help. Jose Mourinho, the manager of London-based Tottenham Hotspur, has been volunteering with the charities Age UK and Love Your Doorstep, helping to pack up food and supplies so they can be delivered to elderly members of the community.

"Any help that anybody can offer can make a huge difference to people’s lives right now—we should all be thinking about what we can do to help each other because there are many vulnerable people that could face struggles during the period we have ahead of us," Mourinho said.

Liverpool Football Club captain Jordan Henderson has pledged £40,000 to Fans Supporting Foodbanks, a Merseyside charity that collects non-perishable donations from the team's supporters on match days. With the Premier League suspended until at least April 30, Henderson wanted to ensure that the organization would still be able to provide to those in need.

"Jordan told me that he’d seen our appeal and the players wanted to help," Ian Byrne, a member of Parliament (MP) and co-founder of the charity, told the Liverpool Echo. "Obviously there’s a lot of uncertainty and concern in our communities at the moment so any kind of offer like this is really important because it shows the kind of solidarity that we are clearly going to need."

And on Tuesday, Arsenal Football Club announced that it would donate £100,000 to local charities to aid them in their coronavirus-related efforts. In addition, the club said that Arsenal in the Community volunteers would make themselves available to transport National Health Service (NHS) workers and to deliver emergency supplies and medication. (Arsenal's manager, Mikel Arteta, previously announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus.)

There are some alternate stories that can make their way around social media. They're maybe slightly less impressive than a stadium turned into hundreds of thousands of servings of lasagna, but they're infinitely more important.