On 5th October 2017, a staggering 165 members from City Sikhs were privileged to attend the England v Slovenia World Cup qualifier as guests of the FA. This was part of the FA’s drive to encourage greater engagement with diverse communities. For many of the guests, it was their first time at any football game.
To mark this event, City Sikhs commissioned a survey looking at British Sikhs and the world of football. Many of those responding had never attended a single football match for a variety of reasons ranging from fear of racism and the pricing of tickets through to lack of people to attend with. Having said that, 73% of people said they were comfortable attending football matches in England with 95% feeling that there is not enough Sikh representation within football.
The guests at Wembley Stadium were surprised by the lively atmosphere, the music, and the general good nature of the crowd.
Surinder Kaur, an Ambassador with City Sikhs, said “It was my first time watching a football match. Being at Wembley was an experience, one I thoroughly enjoyed, it was amazing, the atmosphere was euphoric (something I was initially feeling apprehensive about). I was not let down, the very reason I had never attended a football match has now made think it can be a very enjoyable experience. No doubt I will be going to watch another match very soon. As a young Sikh woman I had many reservations which this experience has allowed me to overcome. Something I will definitely be doing more of in the future. It was an amazing vibe and experience – congratulations to England on the win, but also to City Sikhs & the FA for an amazing experience.”.
Harry Virdee, a director of City Sikhs, said “Initiatives such as this are important to promote greater social integration within the British Sikh community. Although racism has historically been a fear for sports fans, on the whole that is no longer the case. For many of our members today, this experience has opened their eyes up to the beauty of sport as spectators and hopefully as participants too. We are very proud of our partnership with the FA and our members can see first hand the proactive steps governing bodies are taking to further embrace diversity within sport.”
The FA seeks to ensure football is for everyone and that sometimes means reaching out to new and diverse groups. Kevin Coleman, Equality & Diversity Manager at the FA said “The FA was more than happy to embrace such diversity on the 5th October at Wembley Stadium, the home of football, where the England Men’s Senior team qualified for the 2018 World Cup. The Sikh Community has been embedded in English grassroots football for several decades and to welcome representative organisations such as The City Sikhs Network to Wembley is something that makes perfect sense. We are glad that you enjoyed the game and experience of visiting the national stadium and we hope that people from across Sikh communities in England continue to play and enjoy the beautiful game.”
City Sikhs is committed towards improving access to sports in the UK for British Sikhs, be it as spectators, as coaches or trainers, and even as sportspersons.
For more information about City Sikhs, please visit www.citysikhs.org.uk.