The BAME Football Forum (BFF) have announced the inaugural ‘Non-League Diversity Football Festival’, which is being on Saturday.

The festival, hosted by Punjab United, has been launched for non-league clubs playing in the football pyramid system, that are leading the way for Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups in terms of playing, managing, coaching, volunteering and operationally running clubs.

Punjab United committee

The event is being held from 1:30pm onwards, tomorrow at the Steve Cook
Stadium in Gravesend and is part of the BFF’s long term strategy ‘A Quest for Change to be Empowering, Representative, Diverse and Inclusive.’

BFF Chair, Ivan Liburd said, “The support and interest in the event has been massive, not only from within the clubs, but from those who govern football.

“It’s important to create moments like this in football where we can celebrate the obvious talent within BAME football communities.

“It’s a positive step in continuing to build unity amongst grassroots clubs nationally and to continue to shine a light on diversity and inclusion”.

The first four partner clubs taking part are Leicester Nirvana, Sporting Bengal, hosts Punjab United and Sporting Khalsa.

The clubs are well established non-league semi-professional sides, that play
at Step 5 and above, with Sporting Khalsa recently being promoted to Step 4.

The festival will contain six games of football over a round-robin tournament, with the winner being whoever leads the group on points or goal-difference.

It will also showcase traditional Punjabi Food from Punjab United’s catering staff, Punjabi Dhol players and an event showcasing football, with fans and sponsors (COVID restrictions allowing) present to make the day as atmospheric as possible.

Hosts Punjab United’s secretary, Jindi Banwait has said: “We’ve come to host it as one of the top Non-League Asian run sides in the UK and we’re fortunate to be the first to do so.

“It’s important to celebrate diversity for a number of reasons, the main one being progression.

“Asian footballers are huge in Non-League as are Asian run clubs.

“This is our time to show how positive we are especially in the wider footballing community. We can also show off our heritage, our food, and our love and passion for football. It’s important this is recognised.

“This event will lead to more minority ethnic communities getting into non-league football. Especially if the event follows the other clubs around the country.

Jindi Bantwait (left)

“These Asian clubs will have supporters mixing from Kent, Essex, and the Midlands, which are massive counties.

“Through their experiences tomorrow, they will converse about the games they have seen, and locally this will also bring a boost to clubs who have not seen Semi-Professional Asians play so competitively.”

“We can encourage minority ethnic communities to get involved with non-league football, with promotion through participation.

Punjab United’s 2021 squad

“Local FA’s such as ours, the Kent FA have supported the costs of officials for this tournament. They have encouraged the event, allowing us to put our financial resources into our grass roots teams.

“We have had social media coverage through our partners (Cohestion Plus), who have promoted the club’s ethos, and culture.

If we can get ex-professionals and media guys like Anwar Uddin (West Ham) and Dev Trehan (Sky Sports) endorsing minority ethnic communities in football, it’s a huge stepping stone.

“We just need the wider bodies like the F.A. and Sport England to recognise the potential.

“Overall, the media, and sporting bodies locally and through national coverage should be giving more.

The BBC supported us last year with a prime-time documentary, and this helped the club onto a larger stage.

Also, we should support our kids as parents, ensuring we always encourage win, lose, or draw.”

The purpose of the event is to ensure that those outside of the professional game are aware that other opportunities exist and that work is being done at a grass roots level that supports and complements the work of national partners.

Councillor Kirk Master, BFF Ambassador said: “It has been a few years coming but we’ve finally got to deliver the BAME Football Forum inaugural event.

“This event is crucial to continue to demonstrate that BAME communities play a huge role in football, from grassroots right through to the professional game.

“This is only the beginning of this Diversity event, it’s destined to
become a big part of the grassroots calendar.”

The BFF have said that following the inaugural event, there are plans to grow the concept year on year, with other clubs across the nonleague pyramid as well as partners being invited.

The event is being supported by The Football
Association (FA), Kick it Out’s – Fans for Diversity project and Kent FA.