Everybody is welcome at our matches, but not everybody knows that. Football is a universal language, but we don’t always get to speak it to everybody. Ours is a multicultural city that has thrived on wave after wave of immigration, but that has not always been a smooth process.
Football is a great way to integrate newly arrived communities, so we were delighted to receive a grant from the Cooperative to run a series of eight coaching sessions for different refugee and new migrant groups. We were completely unprepared for the level of response from the groups we met and our own fans who threw themselves into the project in far greater numbers than we expected.
Some of the things we achieved with the help of the groups we contacted were,
• A tournament for boys’ teams from a number of mosques in Manchester organised in conjunction with The Sportlight, a community sports organisation based in Cheetham Hill.
• A series of regular coaching sessions for refugee men in Bury led by a former Sudanese international, organised with the Bury Solidarity Group that meets at the Mosses Community Centre in Bury.
• A Better Together Tournament for the different teams who used the facilities in Albert Park in Salford and tend to be split along ethnic lines. Following the tournament we now run regular training sessions led by Karl Marginson which are attended by young men of many different ethnic backgrounds all playing football together.
As a result of this project, a joint team made up of FC fans and members of the Bury Solidarity Group invite teams of refugees and others suffering from social exclusion, to play a mini tournament before each of our Saturday home matches.
After the tournament, everybody comes along to the FC match – together.
This is an initiative that came from our fans, is entirely run by our fans and takes building cohesion through football to a whole new level. We expect further developments in this area of our work this year.
Engaging Youth - Youth United Day
Youth United Day 2009 was another outstanding success with a large number of our fans working hard to put on an event to engage young people from a wide range of different ethnic and social backgrounds from right across Greater Manchester.
Around 1,000 children and young people took advantage of our under 18’s go free offer and many of them got involved in a number of pre-match activities which included;
• Futsal Taster Sessions run by Manchester Futsal Club
• The Northerncare Five-a-side Tournament for Looked After Children
• A Five-a-side tournament for North Manchester Primary Schools
• African and Persian Drumming
• A short play performed by MAD Theatre Company
• Clay Plaque Painting
• Street Dance Workshop
• Face Painting
• Fire Engine Demonstration
• Banner Making
• Youth Parade on the Pitch
Funding for the event last year was kindly provided by Temple Somerville Painting & Decorating, the Under the Boardwalk Fanzine, the Tameside FC United Supporters’ Branch and Andrew Davies who donated proceeds from public reading of his book, Gangs of Manchester.
42 separate organisations brought young people to Youth United Day 2009 including schools, football clubs, religious and community groups from all over Manchester.
Community Cohesion - Reducing Anti-Social Behaviour
New Charter Housing Association asked FC United to take over coaching a group of young men who had been attending football coaching sessions on one of their estates.
FC United coaches ran regular weekly training sessions and after a few weeks the young men who came each week expressed a desire to form their own team, called the Audenshaw Gunners. FC coaches arranged a friendly match with our under 18’s team and after that match the team entered a number of tournaments where they have enjoyed considerable success.
Nearly all the young men on the project had been referred by the Police. Since the start of the project the Police have reported a 74% drop in the number of reported incidents involving young people referred to the project.
FC United commissioned an impact assessment of the project. This impact assessment found that;
• Half of respondents felt a lot more involved in their community
• Half of respondents felt a lot healthier
• 8 out of 10 felt quite or very proud of their achievements in the project
• 3 of the young men questioned expressed an interest in being trained as sports coaches to enable them to put on coaching schemes in their community.