Football clubs unite to tackle discrimination

A new football forum set up to support grassroots footballers from minority communities in Leicestershire has launched a survey to better understand experiences of discrimination in the game.

Leicestershire’s new Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Football Forum (BFF) – believed to be the first of its kind in the country – is appealing for spectators, players, coaches and family members across the Leicestershire and wider, to share their personal experiences of discrimination to shape future improvements.

The move follows a series of high-profile incidents in top flight football which have sparked calls for tougher action to address racism in the game.

It has drawn support from across the Leicestershire including the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Kirk Master who said urgent action was needed to tackle surging levels of discrimination and racist abuse in the sport.

The BFF is a new partnership of a number of grassroots football clubs across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland which have come together to develop a support network for BAME football clubs and their players.

The aim of the forum is to promote, support and encourage the development and progression of BAME football clubs locally and ensure the needs of the BAME football community are met.

Ivan Liburd, BFF chair, said: “In recent weeks, there have been a number of high-profile racist cases highlighted in the media from the top tier of professional football all the way to grassroots. This is concerning for local BAME clubs as similar abuse continues to take place at a grassroots level.

“We created the forum not only to be a critical friend to football authorities, but to provide a stronger voice in the agenda for change.

“The forum accepts the challenge of becoming the self-appointed central point for all discussions around BAME football locally and intends to work closely with those that make decisions which affect the football community.”

The Forum already has gained the support of 70% of the BAME clubs across the county including the first black football club in Leicester which has a 50-year history, the first Bengali football club, the largest multi-ethnic football club in Leicestershire and a club based in the centre of the Muslim community in Leicester.

Its new survey will examine the impact of discrimination on the lives of amateur footballers and their families to inform future support work.

Supporting the forum, Kirk Master said: “We must do more to tackle racism in football at all levels and I am grateful to the BFF for taking the lead on this issue and strengthening the voice of BAME footballers across Leicestershire".

“Racism and discrimination has no place in any sport. The issues taking place in our grassroots clubs reflect the problems in our wider society and it is imperative we take action to make all our sports venues and clubs a welcoming, supportive and encouraging place for all.”

The survey offers an opportunity to comment on the current football culture as well as offering suggestions for progress.

The results will be collated throughout the summer with the purpose of developing a strategic plan to be launched at the start of the 2019/2020 football season.

Forum leads have already invited strategic partners to sit down and openly discuss future partnership working.

Ahmed Maravia, Vice Chair of the BFF, said: “We have launched this survey not only to better understand how people are feeling about the constant reports of discrimination, but also to give our families, players and communities an opportunity to have their experiences heard".

“We want people to respond from the heart and really share how their experiences have had an effect on their lives.”

The BFF aims to instigate change across all areas of football including governance, training and facilities and will work closely with decision makers and local authorities to support changes which progress the BAME agenda.

To complete the survey visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J6N52YL