The first ever Non-League Diversity Football Festival, set up by BAME Football Forum (BFF), was this weekend and proved to be a great success. So much so, that the BFF have said it will now become an annual event.
The festival saw Non-League football clubs come together on the weekend to celebrate diversity and the success of non-league clubs that are leading the way for Black and South Asian communities in terms of playing, managing, coaching, volunteering and operationally running clubs.
Taking place on Saturday 3 July at the Steve Cook Stadium in Gravesend, the festival was attended by football governing bodies, ex-professionals, semi-professionals, and communities from across the country.
The first of what is now set to be an annual event, involved four partner clubs playing at step five of the football pyramid system or above – Leicester Nirvana, Sporting Bengal, Punjab United and Sporting Khalsa who took the honours on the day.
BFF Chair, Ivan Liburd said: “The festival was a huge success and all those who took part have said how great it was to be part of the first one. It felt like a celebration and there was a real sense of togetherness throughout the day, the attendance was very supportive and had the feel of a family reunion.
“It sparked the interest of so many people involved in the game. From those in non league and grassroots clubs, to media outlets, to equality leads and officials, and others who want to see BAME communities thrive. It was a success all round.
“It definitely continued the conversation about diversity and was in fact the first time anything like this had been achieved.
“The forum is all about bringing grassroots clubs together and is the basis of why the forum exists. This festival was able to achieve this on a national scale, something no one has done. The possibilities to expand the offer of the festival is huge.
“As for next year, planning for it is already starting and we will be looking for sponsors and suitable venues, which will enable us to grow the amount of teams that can take part each year.
“The aim is that this event is community led but delivered in partnership with national stakeholders and that it becomes an important part of the non league calendar.”
“Building a national platform for grassroots clubs to be recognised and celebrated is so important in order to continue to shine a light on diversity and inclusion.
The success of this year’s event has already started the anticipation for next year’s celebration.
Credit goes to the clubs involved, the hosts and all those who supported the event to make it happen. A real community event.”
Dal Darroch, The FA’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Programmes, commented: “We know that football has the power to break down barriers and unite people, and this diversity festival was a great way of bringing grassroots clubs and local communities together in both celebration and solidarity.
The FA is committed to ensuring our game is truly inclusive at all levels and we were proud to be a part of the day.”
A statement from the BAME Football Forum said: “With so much focus on the professional game, there is a real need for non-league clubs to develop ways to support each other to progress through the leagues.
We cannot take for granted the contribution, the hurdles and the challenges that clubs run by Black and South Asian communities are overcoming.
The Non-League Diversity Football Festival is a way of bring together real diversity from players to officials, and the amazing thing is that it is community led.”
The BAME Football Forum have also developed a national survey to explore how BAME people and those that work or volunteer in BAME communities, feel about the current situation regarding instances of discrimination and racism in football.
The results will help to inform the Forum on the perceptions of
local communities, and will support the Forum’s work on continuing to raise awareness around what is happening in the local game.
The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BAMEFOOTBALLFORUM