Amnesty International UK’s Football Welcomes came back in April for its sixth year with over 95 clubs taking part to celebrate the contribution players from a refugee background make to the game and highlight the role football can play in creating more welcoming communities for refugees.
This year, Football Welcomes came as the UK government prepares to permanently disqualify people’s asylum claims en masse regardless of the strength of their case and dismal plans to house people seeking asylum on large barges. Amnesty says this will create significant obstacles, penalties and harms to people seeking asylum in the UK.
From Leicester City to Leeds United, Brighton and Hove Women to Birmingham City Women, and Stoke City to Sunderland, football clubs, community trusts, County FAs and others put on events and activities to show their solidarity with refugees over the coming month.
Doncaster Club Foundation make tickets available for people seeking asylum to attend the match between Doncaster Rovers and Newport. Players warmed up in Football Welcomes t-shirts. (Unfortunately, this did not produce an improved performance on the pitch). On the following Monday, players from the Football Welcomes programme joined Fit Rovers, another of Doncaster’s community sports ventures, for a series of matches: over 40 people participated in total.
A survey of 2,275 UK adults conducted by Amnesty shows the majority of football fans support Gary Lineker being able to speak up for refugees and are more likely to say football can help refugees integrate into communities. The results show:
67% of football fans say that Gary Lineker should be allowed to express his views on the Government’s refugee policies publicly
When asked if football can play an important role in helping a refugee settle in a new country, 66% of football fans agreed
Naomi Westland, Amnesty International’s Head of Football Welcomes, said: “These results show that football fans see their sport as a powerful force for good. We will not falter - across the country football clubs continue to show there is more that unites us than divides us.”