Altrincham and Metropolitan Police were among seven clubs who dedicated their home fixtures on Non-League Day (Saturday 9th October) to recognise the work of the Fans For Diversity campaign, which is run in partnership between the FSF and anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out.
Altrincham, of the Evostik Premier, sported the Fans for Diversity logo on their shirts for their home match against Rushall Olympic, putting the campaign front and centre on the day the also club launched a new inclusion strategy, aimed at establishing a prayer room, upgrading disabled facilities as well as initiatives to encourage more women and young people to games.
The Fans for Diversity message has taken on a particular poignance in a community that witnessed a suspected hate crime last month. Dr Nasser Kurdy was stabbed in the neck on his way to a mosque, and he was invited to attend the fixture as part of the work the club is doing in this area.
"To have fans step up and to work with the club to [bring the community together] is the most powerful thing," said Anwar Uddin, FSF Diversity and Campaigns manager
"Fans make up our community, they are reflections of the local community and if they are prepared to do that, I think it says a lot about the club and community itself."
The logo was obviously a good luck charm, as Altrincham ran out 4-0 winners. The special matchday shirts will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to charity.
On Non-League Day itself Anwar attended Metropolitan Police of the Isthmian Premier League. As part of the club’s way to promote the campaign, around 20 Chelsea fans from the We Are the Shed End group took part in a game against a Non-League XI in the morning, before being given free tickets to the game that afternoon at Imber Court.
“Fans for Diversity is about bringing new faces to the game, so it was an excellent opportunity to partner with clubs on Non-League Day, an initiative whose specific purpose is attracting fans from the top two divisions to come along to watch their local clubs, perhaps for the first time,” said Anwar.
“The fans loved playing against a team of ex-pros and were made to feel incredibly welcome, getting free entry to the match against Folkestone Invicta. It helped broaden their experience, and shows that events like Non-League Day and the Fans for Diversity campaign are great ways to bring new faces into the crowd”.
In addition to bringing together supporters from non-league and the Premier League, Metropolitan Police focused their efforts on engaging with local young people by running a number of youth team fixtures before the 3pm kick-off, as well as encouraging its young players to attend the first-team fixture. Their Under-11 side were also given the opportunity to be mascots on the day.
Other clubs who dedicated their fixtures to the Fans for Diversity game this weekend include famous non-league outfit Bradford Park Avenue of the National League North, along with Sikh Hunters FC from the West Midlands Regional League and PFC Victoria of the Middlesex County League, who are both made up of minority community players and fans (from the Sikh and Polish communities respectively).
Solihull Moors of the Conference Premier also got in on the act with help from FSF affiliate members Blues 4 All, as did Slimbridge AFC from the Southern League, whose matchday invitation was extended to local schools and youth supporters, and included a special edition programme.
Photo credit: Michael Ripley