*Disclaimer: Since this is U.K. based research, football refers to soccer
I must say the U.K. portion of my AOE research was a highlight of my trip resulting in new contacts and a bevy of knowledge. Each interview provided valuable insight related to the status of football, community outreach and, most importantly, how social issues find their way onto the football field.
As I worked to arrange a third and final interview, Lindsey suggested during our interview reaching out to the Charlton Athletic Racial Equality Partnership (CARE). Much to my surprise CARE was wiling and able to share information about the organization and its place in the community.
The biggest takeaway from my U.K. AOE research relates to the use of Charlton Athletic Football Club (CAFA) as a comparison to the Aeros. My initial U.K. research plan focused solely on the work of Kick It Out and a particular program. However, my interview with Lindsey and Hamdi led me to the CAFC and the Charlton Athletic Racial Equality (CARE) Partnership. This opened up the scope of my research and added a new element for the comparative aspect.
“The award-winning partnership [Royal Borough of Greenwich and CAFC] use a wide range of sports and arts based activity programmes as tools to engage with a diverse range of community groups in order to promote equality, diversity and cohesion”
CARE Partnership Brochure
It’s interesting to see how racism plays a role in football. As an American today, the idea of racism in the current sports landscape isn’t something that crosses my mind. In the U.K., deeply rooted historical racial issues still run throughout the game. It must be mentioned efforts such as lifetime bans, are put forth to curb the chanting and hurling of racial slurs during games, a huge breakthrough mentioned by all three interviewees.
The role of sports in both the U.S. and U.K. are similar in that fans flock to games to cheer on their favorite team. Top players become celebrities and children look up to them. The difference lies in the way in which issues are handled. In the U.S. literacy, obesity, cancer research, and “going green” are main areas of community outreach focus. As for the U.K., football clubs have taken it upon themselves to tackle the issue of racism, an issue that affects the community as a whole and has made its way into the action of the game. That’s where partnerships such as CARE come into play with specific goal of fighting issues with the support of a well-known football club.
“CAFC is recognised as one of the most successful football clubs in the country at promoting social inclusion, building community cohesion, and tackling racism”
CARE Partnership website
Looking at the research findings on both sides lends itself to realizing the important role of teams at all levels. Top tier teams are able to reach a larger audience with more money but what about smaller, lower level teams deeply rooted in the community? Organizations such as the Aeros and CAFC are able to make an impact at home, showing their support for the community as much as they support the team.
As I find my groove back in the U.S., I can’t help but reflect and appreciate the chance to interview three amazing people directly connected to the world of football and community outreach to fight social issues. It’s important to take a step back and learn about issues affecting people in other parts of the world, hence the nature of my AOE research. Moving forward, the insights from London interviews will provide a new perspective as I wrap up my graduate thesis. This study abroad trip was definitely worthwhile.