Project of the Week: Football as a hook to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland
Established by the Irish Football Association in 2000, the ‘Football For All’ project aims to eradicate sectarianism and racism from football and to encourage fun, safe and inclusive participation at every level of the game. It has been re-launched on 23 January and will be presented on 31 January in Brussels at the conference "Bringing Divided Communities Together - Sharing the Experience of the EU PEACE Programme" hosted by EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn.
At grass roots, domestic and international level, the education, assistance and communication services provided by Football For All led to increased commitment from fans, players, coaches, clubs and communities. Seminars, training and workshops have improved awareness of community issues. Solutions for tackling issues come from clubs and fans themselves. These include encouraging non-sectarian support during games; awareness workshops organised by volunteers; self-policing on the terraces; training clubs in their communities and the setting up of World United teams which include players who are refugees or asylum seekers from all over the world.
‘Football For All’ benefited to date from €760,000 from the European Regional Development Fund under the EU PEACE programme which specifically promotes peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
The project ‘Football for all’ successfully demonstrates how sport can have significant and lasting impacts on local communities. Not only has it been highly innovative in its approach to encouraging grass roots engagement but it is implemented by people on the ground who actively seek ways and means of integrating marginalised communities and overcoming prejudice and fear.
Northern Ireland International Manager Michael O’Neill states about the project: “With valued support from PEACE III Programme, the IFA is committed to working in partnership with community groups, clubs, fans and volunteers to promote Football For All throughout all levels of the game. Grassroots initiatives like Street League and Limestone United demonstrate how sport is able to harness a common passion, and use it as a basis to promote learning, respect for diversity and self-development”.