Anwar Uddin has vast experience of equality and football. During his 13-year playing career for the likes of West Ham United, Bristol Rovers and Dagenham & Redbridge, he became one of the most high-profile Asian footballers in British football.
Following his career, Anwar has used the knowledge gained from the game to share messages of equality and inclusion through efforts with Show Racism the Red Card and currently with Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation as lead on their joint Fans For Diversity campaign.
We spoke to Anwar about Fans For Diversity and how SRtRC, Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation are proactively campaigning for equality in the sport.
S: What is your involvement with Kick It Out and the Football Supporters Federation?
A: I lead on the Fans for Diversity Campaign which is run in partnership between Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation.
The campaign is simply about giving every fan a voice and celebrating diversity. Fans are drawn from all aspects of our society and the sport is truly unique in that it brings all these people together regardless of difference.
S: Prior to your role as lead on the Fans For Diversity campaign, you used to work for SRtRC. What was that like?
A: What I enjoyed about working for SRtRC, similar to my role with Kick It Out and the FSF, is the sense of reward that it gave you.
Travelling around the country delivering equality and diversity session in schools, colleges and universities was hard work but that feeling you get when you know 200 students will go home and at least think about what you have been saying, and possibly share that experience with their friends and family is brilliant.
You feel that you are making a real difference for the younger generation and the way they think about issues of race and religion.
S: What is the nature of the relationship between SRtRC, Kick It Out and the FSF?
A: We are all working towards positive change and using football as a way of achieving that. As an ex-professional footballer who has been fortunate enough to have worked for all three organisations, I know of the fantastic achievements they have had with such limited resources. So it’s key we complement each other and support in the areas that we specialise in.
S: Is the diversity in British society reflected on the terraces?
A: Not at present. You only have to look at our capital or some of most diverse cities and towns across the UK. Bradford, Oldham, Rochdale and Birmingham are all extremely diverse in every single way - religion, race, nationality and sexual orientation – but this is not reflected in stadiums and this is something we are working on with fans and their clubs to improve on for those who would like to attend.
S: So is Fans For Diversity attempting to mobilise footballs massive support base in a positive direction?
A: We want to take all the positive energy that fans provide to their teams and allow them to have an effect not just on the game, but also on society to move forward and show just how diverse a bunch we really are.
We want to show everyone from every club that football should be for all. Football needs to welcome people from all different backgrounds. The only colour that should matter is that of the team’s shirt.
S: So why do people from some communities choose not to attend matches even though they love football?
A: I think it’s because of the environment that some communities perceive there to be within football grounds - some don’t see them as a welcoming place and others may not have a genuine connection with the club that others may have inherited for example.
What we are trying to do through the Fans For Diversity campaign is to highlight the positive stories of diversity amongst supporters and how good it can be when communities join each other in a stadium.
We want to shine a light on the fact that so many more women, people of different cultures and religions and the LGBT community are going to watch football.
S: Do you believe people know what they are doing when they shout or chant discriminatory abuse, or is it a case of them just getting carried away?
A: Unfortunately this still does happen, I think some people have no idea about the ramifications of what they are saying or singing. Anti-racism and anti-homophobia awareness should come from the home environment but unfortunately some people don’t get that.
So within schools it is imperative that this is learned, which is why I think the work of Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card is amazing. Football should be an environment that teaches tolerance and acceptance which allows diversity to grow; the sport should try and lead by example.
S: How can you or anyone deal with people chanting horrible things?
A: Kick It Out has a reporting app, available on iPhone and Android devices, which allows you to anonymously report any incident of discrimination whilst you are at a game or any time after. This also allows them to track how many incidents are happening and where and when.
Another route is to contact your nearest steward or safety officer, during or after a match, to inform them of the incident that took place. Any evidence that can be gathered at the time, via photos and videos, can also be crucial in dealing with any incident.
S: Do you think that one day football could be held up as a shining example of how communities should be - made up of a cornucopia of cultures, races and religions that work and live harmoniously?
A: That is what we are trying to do with Fans For Diversity - to create a community like that! We want to see people of all backgrounds going to watch their local team, or even supporting England abroad like I have been fortunate enough to do with the FSF.
Organisations such as Kick It Out, SRtRC and the FSF need to be the support mechanism to allow this to happen - but it is a slow process.
To find out more about the Fans For Diversity Campaign, The FSF or Kick It Out e-mail: Anwar.Uddin@fsf.org.uk
Download the Kick It Out reporting app today, available on iOS and Android, via the App Store or Google Play. (Add Image of app in use)