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CLEAR Football

Ian Cook

Abstract (English)

An intercultural football team made up of Asylum seekers from different nations formed after coming together at "CLEAR" an NGO working in Southampton UK. The football team gives asylum seekers the possibility to take part in an enjoyable social activity, a chance to improve their English and creates a gel between people of different ethnicities.


Abstract (italiano)

A partire dall'iniziativa di "CLEAR", una ONG di Southampton (Regno Unito), è stata creata una squadra di calcio internazionale, formata da richiedenti asilo di diverse nazioni. Ques'iniziativa dà ai richiedenti asilo la possibilità di prendere parte a un'attività sociale divertente e di migliorare il proprio inglese, e crea coesione tra persone di etnie differenti.

1 The practice

1.1 Description of the project

Project Initiators
"CLEAR" (City Life Education and Action for Refugees)
PO Box 237
SO14 3XA

For information about the football project contact:
John Linford
+44 (0) 023800221702

The objectives of the project were in part initially to satisfy the requests of those asylum seekers who were utilising the "CLEAR" project, who asked about the possibility of playing football. John Linford, the refugee integration worker at the project, explains “We started the football in summer 2004 to create a social activity for asylum seekers as often they miss out on these sorts of activities”.

"CLEAR" organised a regular refugee 5-a-side league. The players are made up of people from many different countries all living in Southampton. As many of the asylum seekers live in the inner city the team, according to manager Denzil Emerson, by bringing together many different nationalities “really helps the social cohesion of the city”. Last year they sent a team to the 'Kick It Out' Unity Cup in Leeds, and entered Southampton Community Cohesion Cup, as well as running their own winter league and Refugee Week tournament.

1.2 Time, structure and steps of the project

A local church in Southampton (City Life Church) began in 2001 to discuss to the problems facing asylum seekers who were being dispersed to the city and what they could do to address their needs. Utilising a grant from a bank to research the needs of asylum seekers they decided to set up "CLEAR" which began to provide English lessons and one-to-one advice.

"CLEAR" has grown since then and now provides different services and initiates varied projects. One such project is the multi-national asylum football team which began in July 2004 after requests from some of its members. John Linford explains that “We initially began very informally, just with jumpers for goal posts in the local park. However we soon had 30 or 40 people turning up so we thought we should get a bit more organized and so bought some bibs and cones and so on.”

They now have around 50 people turning up regularly to training sessions. There are plans to eventually field a full 11-a-side team to compete in a local league.

1.3 Place and context

Southampton has been a designated Asylum dispersal town since the late 1990’s and consequently it has a high number of asylum seekers and refugees in the city. The dispersal policy was developed in response to a high number of asylum seekers choosing London or the surrounded area as their destination. As asylum was seen as a national responsibility the government decided to spread out the ‘burden’ of supporting asylum seekers whilst their claims were being processed across the country. This has meant high numbers of asylum seekers in particular towns and cities across the UK where before there were none or relatively few people seeking asylum. Often there is not the social support and infrastructure in the places to support the large influx of new people (often who have little English language skills).

It was in this context that the City Life Church set up "CLEAR" after researching the needs of asylum seekers in the city. The football project addresses the specific problem of lack of social activity. Often when people arrive in a new town where they don’t speak the language and have no friends or family it can be very hard to become socially involved in the life of the city, which is very important in regards to integration and exclusion.

1.4 Methodology

The project had developed and changed with the needs of the participants. As it is a social activity it is important that the activity is fun and inclusive. Social activity was seen as an important facet missing from many asylum seekers and refugees lives. The importance of social activity is easy to over look when faced with the immediate language or economic problems but recognised by "CLEAR" as important in the integration and well being of asylum seekers and refugees. This, needless to say, impacts upon the entire city.

The "squad" is made up of over 50 players, so in this sense everybody can play no matter what their skill level, which is important for inclusiveness. However at the same time there is a "best-11" for playing in competitive matches which is equally important because, at the end of the day, football is a competitive sport. For the better players to get something out of the game they must play at a higher level where the competition is real. Also people do not like to be seen as a joke or novelty team but one which can seriously play. For example I was told by a member of ‘Village United’ a gay football team that they feel the need to be especially ‘hard’ in the way they play so people do not see them as a soft option because of their sexuality.

1.5 Authors, financing and networks

"CLEAR" is funded by the following grant giving bodies as well as through individual donations:

Originally as the games took place in the local park and no additional funding was needed, other than that already received by "CLEAR" as detailed above. Funding received from "Kick It Out", the UK-wide campaign to kick racism out of football, allowed the hire of a sports hall during the winter months so the games could continue.

"Kick it out" was established in 1993 and has led a high profile campaign for over ten years. On their website they state that "they work throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge racism and work for positive change. The campaign is supported and funded by the game’s governing bodies, including founding body the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), the FA Premier League, the Football Foundation and The Football Association.”

However further funding is proving to be a problem, as John explains, “The main barrier has been funding. We want to play in the local 11–a-side league but it’s really hard to get into them. It costs a fair amount and the players themselves can’t afford it. Some of our players have been refused asylum so they get no support from the government. We can’t ask people to pay subs.” ‘Subs’ are what players of a football team would pay to cover the cost of refereeing, kit etc.

There might be new possibilities for funding however, “The Football Foundation is somewhere that we will be looking for grants into the future. They have just appointed a diversity officer so there might be a possibility there.”


2 Hints for an evaluation