We caught up with FSF campaigns and diversity manager Anwar Uddin to find out the latest about the Fans for Diversity campaign...
Fans For Diversity’s (FFD) focus for the past month has been tackling homophobia – February was LGBT History Month – and Anwar was at the Etihad on Monday 1st February for a Football v Homophobia (FvH) event which was backed by groups such as Canal Street Blues and the 1894 Group.
“I was really impressed with their stadium and the facilities, with a connecting bridge from the stadium itself to the Academy Stadium,” says Anwar. “An FvH focus this year was on fan groups and there has been some brilliant support and activity among fans across the country. It was an unusual day as news broke that Pep Guardiola was going to be the new City manager come summer, and TV crews started showing up at the stadium.”
Fans For Diversity also paid a visit to Stonewall’s #TeamPrideconference on the 52nd Floor of The Leadenhall Building in the City of London. The event took place on 11th February and was attended by the likes of Casey Stoney. One of the things discussed was the way in which the presence of LGBT fan groups might give players the confidence to come out. In recent seasons groups such as Proud Canaries, Proud Lilywhites, Gay Gooners and Canal Street Blues have all grown in prominence.
On Sunday 28th February FFD hosted a five-a-side tournament at The Arsenal Hub to celebrate LGBT History Month with a five-a-side tournament. Plenty of non-LGBT groups were involved too with the likes of The Clapton Ultras and the Homeless FA all in attendance alongside established LGBT groups FvH, Gay Gooners and Proud Lilywhites.
Speaking to Kick It Out, Anwar said: “It was a really good day – I’m delighted with how many people turned up to play and watch. It was held in a fantastic atmosphere.
“But for me it was also really significant that we had so many people from both the LGBT and non-LGBT communities come together and just enjoy the day. There are a lot of events that some organisations put on that only include people from the same mind-set or background, which we wanted to change.
“The whole point of today was to bring different people together and celebrate the same thing and everyone had a fantastic time working closely with the gaygooners and Dave Raval in particular was a great experience and a fine example of how we can utilise the FFD Fund to great affect."
While LGBT issues came to the fore in February it wasn’t the only stream of Fans For Diversity work.
Redbridge College approached Anwar after doing a little research into their students’ attitudes on live football and discovering that many were put off by high prices. The College is based in East London and has a very diverse set of students with as many as 70 different nationalities represented.
Many of the students are big football fans but don’t necessarily follow the traditional path that many supporters walk – going to the game with parents or friends who were themselves match-going fans. But the likes of Charlton Athletic, Dagenham & Redbridge and Millwall are all fairly close by and can offer very affordable football.
“The biggest thing that put many students off was ticket prices and who to go with? The fear of the unknown,” says Anwar. “But we want to show that football is a welcoming environment and that discrimination is rare. So we thought we’d get them along to a live game and see what they thought – they went to Charlton v Reading on Saturday, which was only a fiver in, and they’re going to Millwall tonight, which has very cheap concessions.”
“The next stage of the project is to buddy some of the students who have not been with the more regular match-goers and sample three games at different levels of the pyramid and evaluate their experiences.
“I also met a Stevenage fan who originates from Poland and is helping his local community learn English – he’s teaching them about the history of the club and how it could be a great thing to be part of and follow to feel closer to the community"
Anwar paid a visit to Dagenham and Redbridge for their Daggers Against Racism day which coincided with a relegation scrap against Yeovil Town. Tickets were only £2 adults/50p kids which so a 2,000+ crowd – although The Glovers grabbed a 1-0 win, which left Anwar a bit flat seeing as he played almost 200 games for the Daggers and captained the club at Wembley.
Speaking of Anwar’s ex-clubs he also paid a visit to Easbourne Borough - “a hub for the community”, says Anwar. They have facilities which are used every day with tea/coffee groups and bowling. The club even puts on fitness sessions for the elderly - no confirmation as yet if Anwar’s heading along to those.
Back in the mists of time (aka January)
FFD had a busy January as well visiting Gloucester City AFC’s Community Tigers scheme. In July 2007, Gloucester City’s home, Meadow Park, was hit by flooding so deep it almost submerged the crossbar. In March 2010 the club announced it would be ground sharing with rivals Cheltenham Town.
Supporters now have to travel to see their local team so FFD thought it would be a good idea to host a diversity themed match and get 100 young, local supporters from all different backgrounds and genders to travel across for their game against Boston United on 31st January.
"We do have that barrier of transportation because we don't have our ground in the city centre. That's a massive barrier because people aren't willing to travel to Cheltenham Town, which is a few miles away,” says the club’s Mat Liddiard.
"Our vision is that when we do go to a Gloucester City game we see people from all different backgrounds, from all different communities because of what we're delivering." More here.