Football can bring people from all backgrounds together and many of us practice our faiths and interact with football as part of our daily lives.
Faith and football are intrinsic. Delivering a game free from discrimination is one of our key priorities at the FA. Our group strategy called ‘Time For Change’ outlines six key game changers, of which ‘delivering a game free from discrimination’ is one.
In late 2021, we launched our new equality, diversity and inclusion strategy called ‘A Game for All’ which sets out our plans for football taking us to 2024. With the support of the FA’s Faith and Football Group, we also published the 2022-23 editions of our equality, diversity and inclusion calendar for grassroots football and our ‘Faith and Football’ educational document.
Both are designed to help participants make the game more inclusive and truly welcoming for their local communities. We marked 2022 South Asian Heritage Month by publishing an update on phase two of our Asian inclusion strategy, Bringing Opportunities to Communities.
The strategy aims to increase Asian participation across all levels of English football, both on and off the pitch, with programmes and targets set against five strategic pillars. Asian communities make up the biggest ethnic minority community in England, and while we’re seeing more Asian people playing, coaching and refereeing within the game, continuing to grow these participation levels remains a strategic priority for the FA.
Together with the Religion Media Centre, we explored the historic links between football and Christianity by players, FA staff, a football historian, a chaplain and fans. Many football clubs emerged from church groups, bringing values such as fair play, so that Christianity became woven into the history of the game. Today there continues to be an overlap between Christians and football clubs, which are often at the heart of communities. Leo Devine hosted this special briefing with guests James Kendall (FA Director of Football Development), Arran Williams (FA Diversity and Inclusion Manager), Peter Lupson, (author of 'Thank God for Football'), Matt Baker (National Director for England & Pastoral Support Director in English Football), Rev Pouya Heidari (former professional footballer, now vicar of St Mary's Fetcham and captain of the Archbishop of Canterbury's football team), Linvoy Primus (former Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth player), Becky Clarke (goalkeeper Bournemouth Sports FC), Catherine Pepinster (journalist and devoted Brentford fan), Hannah Rich (senior researcher at Theo's think tank) and Rabbi Alex Goldberg (Chair of the Football Association's Faith in Football group)
Ramadan - Thursday 29 April 2022
Together with the Ramadan Tent Project (RTP), we hosted over 600 Muslims at Wembley Stadium to celebrate faith and football. As the home of English football, Wembley provided the backdrop to an amazing evening of football talks and panels, guest appearances and the breaking of fast after the call to prayer was performed by an Imam at Wembley’s pitchside location. Now in its third instalment of Ramadan at Wembley, the FA and RTP worked to provide many of the local community around Brent a chance to visit the stadium for the first time. Many people, young and old, witnessed the stadium in all of its glory whilst also partaking in prayers and discussion. All visitors broke their fast together – an iconic moment for all involved.
Vaisakhi - Sunday 1 May 2022
We held a grassroots football event to mark Vaisakhi in the Sikh faith calendar - with over 350 attendees gathered together at Sporting Khalsa FC in Willenhall, West Midlands. The day was hosted by BBC Asian Network’s Jasmine Takhar and saw football coaching sessions and faith panels taking place including a footballers' panel featuring professional player Mal Benning (Port Vale FC), Arjun and Amar Purewal (two Sikh brothers who faced each other in the FA Vase Final at Wembley Stadium in 2021 and became the first British South Asian brothers to do so), female player Riya Mannu (Birmingham City Women), freestyle footballer Kaljit Atwal and football coach Sabrina Dale. A celebrity football match also entertained the crowds featuring a number of well-known figures from across the Asian music, arts and entertainment industries – rapper Jagga, Punjabi singer Steven Sahota, TV presenter Sukhi Bhart and music producer Tru-Skool were some of the recognisable names taking part. Sporting Khalsa FC is recognised as the most senior club of Sikh heritage in England and currently operates in Step 4 of the men’s football pyramid.
Vesak Day - Monday 23 May 2022
Members of the Buddhist and Nepalese communities gathered at Swindon Town FC to celebrate the Buddhist Vesak Day on 23 May 2022. Featuring a live Q&A on faith and football, coaching and refereeing workshops, Buddhist prayers and dance – over 100 members of the local communities gathered to learn about football in the community. Special guests included the Mayor of Swindon Councillor Abdul Ami, His Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant Mrs Sarah Rose Troughton of Wiltshire, Nepalese Association of Wiltshire Chairman Gyan Gurung alongside head of Swindon Town FC Community Foundation Jon Holloway, FA National Coach development lead Lawrence Lok, FA Council member Anwar Uddin and referee Sam Allison.
Diwali and Hindu New Year - Wednesday 26 October
Several FA employees joined our local community at Neasden Temple last week to celebrate Diwali and the Hindu New Year. Neasden Temple, which is located just a mile from Wembley Stadium, opened in 1995 and welcomes thousands of visitors each year from various faiths and backgrounds. And Dal Darroch (Head of EDI Strategic Programmes), Saira Mirza (Corporate Social Responsibility Manager) and James MacDougall, (Head of Corporate Affairs) joined the community for the celebration, which signifies the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Head priest Swami Yogvivek welcomed the team and encouraged a future relationship between the FA and the temple.