Fans for Diversity looked back on another hugely successful 12 months by launching its 2017 report in Parliament yesterday. The campaign, which is run jointly by the Football Supporters’ Federation and Kick It Out, started in 2014 and has made huge strides in that time.
The event was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters, and its chair Ian Mearns MP kicked things off with a moving eulogy to Cyrille Regis, who sadly passed away earlier this month. Regis was one of the first prominent black players in England and won five international caps.
FSF chief executive Kevin Miles told the audience, made up of 50 MPs and supporters, that the “vast majority of fans are part of the solution to discrimination, not the problem”.
Campaign coordinator Anwar Uddin then explained how Fans for Diversity had kickstarted 50+ new fan groups and encouraged hundreds of new supporters along to games.
This includes many young fans in cities like Bradford, Birmingham and Derby who have been introduced to the live game and loved it. Instead of following a side from another region many of those youngsters now support their local team – a legacy that could last for generations.
“It was a privilege to speak in Parliament and great to have so many of the campaign’s biggest supporters and so many inspiring fans in attendance. We’ve created a great foundation which will have an impact in the years, and hopefully decades to come,” said Anwar.
The initiative has also worked with senior citizens, bringing them together for social events at West Ham United thanks to Sporting Memories and Any Old Irons, as well as new female fan groups such as Lady Imps and a host of organisations via the Fans for Diversity Hub at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road.
Chris Paouros of the Proud Lilywhites also spoke and gave a perfect summary of why fans will continue to stand together and make the case for diversity with one voice. “It’s much better if we all work together as homophobia rarely travels alone - it’s usually accompanied by its ‘mates’ racism, sexism and xenophobia which is why it’s important we all stand together. No-one should be frightened of being vilified for who they are,” said Chris.
Fans for Diversity helped launch Punjabi Rams in 2014, laying the foundations for the group to grow and achieve great things. Pav Samra is one of the group's founders and said the campaign acted as "a springboard and enabled us to do so much in such a short space of time".
“It’s not all about financial support but having someone who has experience that we can turn to for advice. In the coming months we're taking a number of children from a local deaf school to their first game, our idea combined with the support from Fans for Diversity is making this happen,” said Pav.
Roisin Wood, chief executive of Kick It Out, was pleased to see the work of Fans For Diversity recognised with the event in Parliament. “We’re immensely proud of the work we are doing together with the FSF to engage with fans from all communities and ensure that football is truly diverse. It was fantastic to be able to celebrate that today alongside people who work across the industry, MPs, and so many of the fan groups we work closely with.”
Fans for Diversity is a joint initiative by the FSF and Kick It Out with a small budget for club-specific activities - if you'd like to get involved email campaign coordinator Anwar Uddin via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7253 0162.