Liverpool Football Club has provided supporters with a review of its ongoing work on equality and diversity at a fans forum which took place ahead of the recent home fixture against Southampton.
Framed around two presentations by Simon Thornton, the club’s diversity and inclusion manager, the equality and diversity forum discussed a range of topics including stadium accessibility, community initiatives, LGBT issues and anti-racism campaigns.
Campaigns and initiatives
The forum began with a presentation by Simon Thornton which focussed on work undertaken by Liverpool over the last 12 months which included:
- More than 100 children attending a Show Racism the Red Card event at Anfield in March.
- A range of activities taking place around Liverpool Pride, including the Kop being illuminated in the colours of the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag, around 100 members of staff participating in the Liverpool Pride parade and a Pride football tournament.
- Support for the rainbow laces campaign at the home fixture against Chelsea in November 2017 with manager Jürgen Klopp wearing rainbow laces, club captain Jordan Henderson wearing a rainbow armband, 2,000 badges being distributed to supporters and accompanying content on official club media. “It was a really good demonstration of our stance on this issue,” said Simon Thornton. “Our position is that everyone is welcome at Anfield.”
- The home fixture against West Ham United in February was dedicated to the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign with the organisation’s work being promoted on posters, t-shirts and pitch-side advertising boards.
- Participation in Disabled Go which surveys accessibility. Simon Thornton explained: “This work is commissioned by the Premier League with reviews including all stands, the club museum, the ticket office, the Boot Room Café and various other areas of the stadium. It looks at what kind of taps there are in the bathrooms, how doors open, basically everything that would concern a disabled supporter on match day. Ultimately, we are in a good place and we have made significant progress in this area but there is still work to be done.”
- In November 2017 Box 1A of the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand began being used as a sensory room for the first time. The room allows supporters with a sensory need such as autism to experience football matches in a comfortable environment. “This has proven very popular,” Simon Thornton said. “A really inclusive environment has been created for those who need it.”
- The introduction of a dedicated stewarding team specifically for disabled supporters.
- The provision of equality, diversity and inclusion training for 3,500 casual staff.
Summing up, Simon Thornton said: “In terms of moving forward, we have refreshed our vision with a view to becoming the most inclusive football club and business. That is our aim.”
Forum member Yunus Lunat responded: “If you look at the images of what the club is doing in the local community it provides little evidence of diversity, we either we still need to reach out more, or ensure the images used are representative of our work.”
“I take that point and the LFC Foundation is currently looking at their approach to inclusion as well as looking for someone to lead on that,” Simon Thornton said.
Yunus Lunat added: “The challenge I would lay down would be to pick up on Islamophobia as well. Liverpool have done so much positive work in terms of making people feel welcome at Anfield and I would like to highlight the mother of one supporter who wears full Islamic clothing having the confidence to express a desire to attend a match speaks volumes for the club.
“We see supporters wearing head scarves and, again, they feel totally comfortable doing that. This isn’t something that you see everywhere else so there is so much to be positive about but if Liverpool could get involved in the fight against Islamophobia it would make such a difference.”
Forum member Riaz Ravat said: “I would agree with Yunus. Liverpool are such a powerful force globally and in Mo Salah we have a player who is so much more than just a footballer. If there is some bespoke work that could be done to combat Islamophobia and also antisemitism, maybe something as simple as a social media campaign, it could have a significant impact. The club can definitely be proud of so much of what it has done in this area but we can still go to the next level.”
Forum member Katie Price said: “As things stand, the sensory room is used at every other home game; long term can it be made available for every home game?”
Simon Thornton replied: “This is something that we will look into. The room is not always available at present for various reasons but we will look at the options that are available to us.”
Premier League Accessibility Fan Survey
Simon Thornton presented the next agenda item, an account of the Premier League Accessibility Fan Survey, giving forum members a review of how Liverpool Football Club had fared in the survey which had been made available to all supporters who bought disability tickets in 2017-18. The key findings were:
- Liverpool FC’s match day experience score is higher than the average Premier League club, specifically overall experience, being welcoming and match experience.
- 93 per cent of participants believe LFC is taking steps to improve disabled supporters match day experience.
- 77 per cent believe their experience has improved over the last three years. Only two per cent claimed it had got worse.
- 95 per cent thought that the attitude and performance of club staff was good or better. The Premier League average was 89 per cent.
- LFC scored 86 per cent or more on a range of accessibility factors including availability of tickets for personal assistants (99 per cent), access to a wheelchair accessible space (98 per cent), dedicated stewards to help fans (98 per cent) and access to a sensory room (90 per cent).
- LFC’s lowest score was for car parking or drop off point (76 per cent).
- Six out of ten fans believe it is easy to find out about the club’s facilities for disabled fans online or via email but only 30 per cent said they found it easy through social media.
- Six out of ten have car parking as their biggest concern regarding attending home games.
Referring to the issue of social media, forum member Katie Price asked if it would be possible for the equality and diversity forum to operate a club account on Twitter. Forum chair Tony Barrett said a review of social media is currently taking place and a range of ideas and options are being considered.
Forum members Steve Evans from Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association (LDSA) said: “I filled the survey in and I found it quite easy but I think some people with certain disabilities might have found it more difficult even though it was mostly a tick box exercise.
“The outcome of the survey is no surprise, though with the club scoring 90 per cent or more in the majority of areas. I’m also not surprised that car parking rated lower as this is an ongoing issue. Car parking has got a bit better but needs to keep improving.”
Katie Price said: “I’m surprised to see that two per cent said their match day experience has got worse because I have seen the club make huge strides recently. I would go as far to say I am proud of the club and the work that it has done.”
Steve Evans agreed, saying: “One of the big things that stands out at this club is the staff. They are fantastic.” Katie Price added: “They make you feel so welcome. They are like a match day family to me.”
The final agenda item was an update from Simon Thornton regarding a request from forum member Yunus Lunat for the club to look into the possibility of introducing wash facilities at the multi-faith prayer room.
Simon Thornton said: “This was an idea that was put forward previously and while there has not been any significant progress I am more than happy to update the forum on exactly where we are at.
“As you will be aware, the club is currently prioritising other major capital projects, most notably the new training ground in Kirkby but I have consulted with the Muslim chaplain of the local universities, Zane Abdo, in order to look at our facilities with him.
“He has given us some insight in terms of what we can and can’t do and one of the conclusions is that having a wash room actually inside the facility would not be ideal. So we know what we would like to do but the question is how to do we do it and these deliberations are continuing.”
Yunus Lunat said: “I appreciate the response but there is one thing that I would say to the club and that is that you should be able to sing your own praises on issues such as this. Another club opened a prayer room and they shouted it from the rooftops. Liverpool were one of the first Premier League clubs to open a multi-faith prayer room and this is something that should be celebrated.”