United Glasgow: the football team making a real difference.

United Glasgow football team

Credit: United Glasgow / Unknown

Rona McNicol
Writer

Charity football team aim to promote inclusion and equality in the sport

“Refugees welcome”: it’s a phrase that is becoming increasingly familiar in Glasgow and Scotland, which is hugely encouraging insofar as it demonstrates the growing awareness among society of holistic integration and inclusion. The growing ubiquity of open mindedness perhaps might not be so prominent today were it not for grassroots organisations like the United Glasgow Football Club (UGFC), whose logo bears the aforementioned slogan. The UGFC’s ethos is to both accept and reach out to people of “all genders, sexual orientations, religions, ethnicities, socio-economic positions and immigration statuses”. It’s not just refugees that are welcome in this club, it’s everyone. Despite the number of organisations aimed at tackling the lack of representation and discrimination in football, imbalances and prejudices ensue throughout the game and, indeed, across most sports.
Out For Sport, a charity aimed at increasing inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in sport, found that in 2012, while 57% of the LGBTQ+ community wished to be more involved in sport, only 5% felt that enough was being done to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport.

Additionally, anti-discrimination campaign, Kick It Out, reported a 269% increase in reports of racism, faith-based abuse, and homophobia in football in 2014. At a time where advances are being made in many places, there remains a distinct number of hurdles to overcome in tackling exclusion and discrimination in football, and that’s exactly what the innovative UGFC and its Glasgow University wing seek to do.

The flagship club was founded in 2011 and has grown rapidly in its six years of existence, reaching a point whereby the club now has over 200 players – a number that is constantly increasing. They have two competitive 11-a-side men’s teams, one competitive 11-a-side women’s team along with an array of drop-in sessions aimed at appealing to the furthest corners of marginalised society. Equipment, clothing, and footwear is provided to all attendees who may require it. The Glasgow University branch – also known as United Glasgow Student Society (UGSS) – seeks to extend United Glasgow FC’s spirit of inclusion into the Glasgow University student community. UGSS, like UGFC, aims to use football as a tool for tackling discrimination by ensuring that no person is either priced-out of or made to feel unwelcome in the sport. The university club offers the opportunity not just to play, but to become involved in volunteering, working with refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, United Glasgow FC is sustained by volunteers and donations, and the longevity of the club depends upon the continuity of this generosity. Beyond the football pitch, UGFC’s overarching goal of combating discrimination is promoted regularly through education sessions and active campaigning. The education workshops provide information on anti-sexism, anti-homophobia and transphobia, as well as anti-racism, covering complex issues including terminology, deconstructing social prejudice and media bias while aiming to eliminate social myths. UGFC and UGSS’s campaigning for minority rights and opportunities further project the ever important attitude of total solidarity. The successes of UGFC and UGSS are therefore two-fold. While outwardly projecting inclusion and acceptance through their open attitude towards recruitment and participation, they also contribute to a deepening of knowledge on inclusion into wider society. Two clubs, which on the surface may appear like any other football club, are in fact more concerned with transforming the public perception of all marginalised groups, seeking to unite not just football players, but entire communities. Coexistence is the heart and soul of United Glasgow FC and United Glasgow Student Society, and they believe it should be the key focus of all of society. To aptly quote Yasmin Mei Lei Wong, a member of the UGSS committee: “If you’re not being directly inclusive, you’re being indirectly exclusive.”
The direct inclusion practised by UGFC and UGSS has been hugely rewarding to those involved, while hopefully paving the way for the total deconstruction of discrimination norms in football and in sport.

The direct inclusion practised by UGFC and UGSS has been hugely rewarding to those involved, while hopefully paving the way for the total deconstruction of discrimination norms in football and in sport.

If you’re interested in joining or know somebody who might be, you can attend drop in sessions for just £1! For more info, contact the club at https://unitedglasgowfc.org.uk/contact/ or join the university group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/706009616197189/. An education day will be held at Kinning Park Complex on Sunday 22 October from 4-8pm.