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The O’s provide “stepping stone” for new fans

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Leyton Orient have refurbished an old part of Brisbane Road to use as a welcoming space for potential new supporters with help from Fans For Diversity.

The club hopes the redeveloped space at the ground, to be known as the Hub, will encourage more local people to get involved with the club.

FSF diversity campaign manager Anwar Uddin attended the launch of the Hub and spoke to fans from the Asian community attending their first match.

“It’s hard for lower league clubs when there’s a big club nearby,” Anwar said. “So with West Ham moving onto their doorstep I think that’s going to have an impact.

“But there’s a great team of people at Orient.

“They’ve done well to provide supporters with their own space where they can be introduced to the club in a relaxed atmosphere.”

At the launch of the Hub around 50 people from the local Asian community enjoyed teas and coffee while Anwar spoke to the group about attending live football and dispelled myths around football fans – four of those fans ending up buying Orient season tickets.

The traditional working class ward of Leyton has undergone a dramatic transformation over recent decades – now almost 70% of the ward population are black or from an ethnic minority background.

Anwar points out that with such dramatic changes locally have massive implications for a lower division side such as Leyton Orient.

“My father didn’t feel safe going to the match,” Anwar said. “When he came over in the 70s there were huge issues around watching football for Asians.

“This made Match of the Day so important.

“In that era, whoever’s on MoTD for the last 30 seconds isn’t going to have the same impact as Liverpool or Manchester United.

“My Dad wanted me to support Liverpool – but I said I wanted to support West Ham, they were right on our doorstep!”

The Hub at Leyton Orient will help the club build that relationship with potential new fans from minority backgrounds.

Anwar says the club is encouraging a wide range of supporters and community groups to get in touch with them so they can make the most out of the new space.

“It’s really pleasing to see a club create such a stepping stone for supporters,” he said.

“A lot of Asian fans will still have relationships with clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool.

“But we’ve almost got to manipulate that relationship. By making sure they’re having that interaction with their local team, we can create that relationship here too.”

The Fans for Diversity campaign is joint area of work between the Football Supporters’ Federation and Kick it Out. Learn more about the campaign here.

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