LFC Foundation, the Liverpool County FA and Amnesty International UK have teamed up to launch the Football Welcomes Community Project, a three-year initiative to harness the power of the beautiful game to create more welcoming communities for refugees and people seeking asylum across the UK.
The project, supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, will see Amnesty work with the LFC Foundation and four other football club foundations and county FAs across the UK to set up ‘community alliances’ working with other local organisations, including refugee groups, local charities, amateur football teams, fans’ groups, schools and others.
The aim of the project is to create a more welcoming environment through football, with local organisations working together to help refugees and people seeking asylum to develop a sense of belonging and purpose as they settle into their new communities.
As well as the mental and physical health benefits of playing recreational football, there will be opportunities for participants to attend English classes, volunteer, undertake refereeing or coaching training or join local grassroots sides, among other activities.
There will be fun football sessions for both males and females, with help from football coaches from the LFC Foundation and Liverpool County FA. Both organisations will be involved in engaging and welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into the city through the power of football. They will also be looking at working with local charities and organisations in helping refugees settle into the community.
The Community Project is a new addition to Amnesty’s Football Welcomes initiative, which celebrates the contribution refugees make to the beautiful game and the positive role football plays in bringing people together.
In April this year, 177 clubs across the UK took part in the third annual Football Welcomes weekend, by offering free match tickets to refugees and people seeking asylum, arranging player visits or stadium tours, or organising a match or tournament for teams of refugees and others in the community.
The model for the Community Project is based on Germany’s ‘Welcome to Football’ programme, under which the majority of the 36 clubs in the top two men’s divisions have linked up with a local refugee charity and local amateur club to welcome refugees and promote integration through football.
Matt Parish, director of the LFC Foundation, said: “The LFC Foundation works to ensure that we provide opportunities for all young people in our local communities. This project is a positive way we can get involved to support and welcome refugees and asylum seekers into our community.”
Naomi Westland, Amnesty International UK’s Football Welcomes manager, said: “We’re delighted to launch this exciting new programme with the LFC Foundation.
“The response to the Football Welcomes weekends has been so positive that we wanted to create a year-round initiative for football clubs to help create more welcoming communities for refugees.
“The club is at the heart of the community and has a unique ability to bring people together through a love of the beautiful game.
“Even if you don’t speak the same language, playing football together can give you a sense of belonging, on and off the pitch, and it can really help people who have fled conflict and persecution to settle into a new country and culture.
“The Community Project is a game-changer. There is a real need right now for people to come together and focus on the things we have in common.
“We’re looking forward to working with the club, Foundation and fans over the next three years to ensure that refugees and people seeking asylum feel welcome in Liverpool.”
The first football session will take place on Thursday August 1, 2.30pm-4.30pm at Anfield Sports and Community Centre (132 Lower Breck Rd, Liverpool L6 0AG). This is a men's open age refugee/asylum fun football session.