Two white t-shirts representing the Football Welcomes Refugees message, displayed on free-kick mannequins

Hampshire FA Celebrate Refugees With Amnesty International's Football Welcomes Campaign

Clubs across the UK join Amnesty’s Football Welcomes campaign to show solidarity with those who have fled conflict and persecution.

April’s Positive Play football festival has been dedicated to Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes Refugees campaign to celebrate the contribution players with a refugee background make to the game.

Hampshire FA’s Positive Play is a monthly non-competitive football festival hosted for those who want to focus on improving their mental wellbeing through the power of football.

As a County FA, we strive to support refugees in as many was as we can. In the 2022/23 season, our Refugees Football Sessions in collaboration with Care4Calais at Winklebury Football Complex amassed 22 regular attendees per month with over 50 different individuals supported across the season – a project which was overseen and supported by the Hampshire FA Corporate Social Responsibility Group.

Earlier this year, our Community Engagement Team supported a friendly football match between Queen Mary's College and Basingstoke College of Technology by providing football boots and shin pads to players from refugee backgrounds. The event was organised to give those who may not usually engage with football a chance to play and bring the colleges closer together.

In a bid to bring everybody in our community closer together, we have invited 50 members from refugee backgrounds to attend two of our Senior County Cup Finals at the EBB Stadium in May – the Servio Men’s Senior Cup; and Adopt South Women’s Senior Cup.

This year marks seven years of Amnesty International’s Football Welcomes campaign and Hampshire FA alongside hundreds of clubs and football organisations have signed up to continue efforts to welcome refugees and people seeking asylum.

Football Welcomes plays an important role in helping to settle people who have fled conflict and persecution into a new culture, to make friends, learn the language and get to know the local area.

Each year, Football Welcomes celebrates the role football can play in bringing people together. The initiative is in stark contrast to the Government’s refusal in recent years to process the asylum claims of tens of thousands of people, which is causing increased misery for thousands of people.

Neil Cassar, Hampshire FA’s CEO said: “We are delighted to take part in the Football Welcomes Campaign and help shine a light on this cause. Football is a fantastic outlet for those who want to stay active and is a great contributor to improving mental health. We at Hampshire FA, firmly believe that everybody should have equal access to participate in the game we all love, and the Football Welcomes campaign is a great way to do just that.”

Hampshire FA is amongst clubs from across the Premier League, English Football League, FA Women’s Super League, Championship and National League, Cymru North and South, and grassroots teams that have signed up to take part in Football Welcomes.

To show their support for people seeking asylum, participating clubs have hosted a range of football-based events including training sessions, matches or stadium tours for refugees. Some clubs are incorporating learning about refugee rights in their work with schools, while others are helping to raise awareness online.

Sandy Abi-Elias, Amnesty International UK’s Women’s Football Officer, said: “It’s important to remember people seeking asylum in the UK are real people many of whom have already faced unimaginable harms and we must do all we can to support them, not demonise them. This is what Football Welcomes is all about.

“No matter what, Amnesty will continue to welcome refugees alongside football clubs across the country to show there is more that unites us than divides us.

“Football Welcomes is made possible thanks to an award from Postcode Justice Trust.”