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Humayun Islam from the Bangla Bantams © Sky Sports

Fans for Diversity: Summer 2022 round-up

The Fans for Diversity campaign, a partnership between the FSA and Kick It Out, continues to assist supporters around the country, and we spoke to campaign lead Anwar Uddin about recent work to promote diversity via three new events across the country…

My Club, My Shirt at Ewood Park

Blackburn Rovers are the latest club to promote the diversity of their supporters with a “My Club, My Shirt” project – celebrating their fans during their 2022-23 kit launch in July.

Rovers invited fans to be part of the kit launch photoshoot which took place across some of the town’s most iconic landmarks and locations, including Ewood Park itself.

“Rovers went all in on the My Club, My Shirt concept,” Anwar said. “We’re up to 15 projects now.

“It’s a quality project putting fans front-and-centre – and that all came from Fans for Diversity.”

Bath City used the My Club, My Shirt format to promote the diversity of their supporters back in May – celebrating their fans with a portrait exhibition at their final home game of the 2021-22 campaign.

Since then the community-owned National League South side exhibited around 30 portraits of supporters at Twerton Park ahead of their match against Oxford and the portraits have been appearing around the city of Bath – even popping up on city buses.

“It’s great to see My Club, My Shirt taking on a life of its own,” Anwar said.

The format has also been adopted with much success at international level with the My Country, My Shirt exhibition, launched with fans of the England women’s team during the European Championships. That exhibition will be at the National Football Museum until October.

Bangla Bantams open community facility

Bradford City’s Bangla Bantams were the first fan group to be established with the help of the Fans for Diversity campaign just over seven years ago – since then they’ve continued to flourish and last week they opened a new community facility next to Valley Parade.

The £1.3m complex contains changing rooms, a pavilion, cafe and three 5G football pitches for five and seven-a-side matches. Funding for the project has come from the Football Foundation, the Power to Change charitable trust, Sport England and Bradford Council.

Anwar attended the opening ceremony last week alongside Bradford City manager Mark Hughes.

“It’s an amazing story,” Anwar said. “When I first came here seven years ago this space was run down and they had 100 kids being coached by just two parents.

“Now they have this fantastic facility a stone’s throw from Valley Parade, more than 600 members and 150 season ticket holders going to games – it epitomises Fans for Diversity and it’s a proud moment for me.”

Bangla Bantams were established to get Bradford’s South Asian community into participating in football and encouraging the local community to attending live football at Valley Parade.

Bradford City have traditionally struggled to attract the South Asian community through the turnstiles but that is beginning to change thanks to the work going on at grassroots level.

“When we started this campaign – even before that when I had the pleasure of playing here – we weren’t seeing that South Asian presence in the stands,” Anwar said. “If you’d told me that over seven years we’d have created that visible presence, active fan groups and a new generation of Asian kids playing for Bradford City I’d have said you’re crazy!

“It shows what organised supporter groups can do – especially when working with the club and wider fan base.”

Bangla Bantams hope the facility will also become a part of the matchday routine for supporters by hosting a fanzone on matchdays with food and kick-abouts, including opening the facility up for away fans.

Villa event brings fan groups together

At the end of July, Aston Villa hosted the inaugural ‘Aston Villa x Fans for Diversity engagement event’ at Villa Park.

The event brought together the Aston Villa Disabled Supporters Association, Villans Together, Saathi Villans (a South Asian women’s group), Punjabi Villans and LGBT+ group Villa & Proud.

“Villa is a Premier League club with a wide and diverse fan base so it was great to get five supporter groups together in one room,” Anwar said. “It was a great evening, particularly seeing traditional supporter groups coming together with a new generation.

“They realised how much they have in common. It was an opportunity to network and celebrate supporting Villa together.

“Creating that ecosystem over the last seven years has been one of the lasting successes of the Fans for Diversity campaign.

Villa hosted a quiz and social night for the supporter groups and Anwar hopes it is just the first of many future events.

Fans For Diversity is a campaign programme run in partnership between the Football Supporters’ Association and Kick It Out, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation. Fans For Diversity encourages, funds and supports initiatives by fan groups to promote diversity and inclusion in football, and to challenge all forms of discrimination.

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Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund

Partners

  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball