AFC Wimbledon badgeBeing diverse and inclusive

Anuk Teasdale, a member of the Dons Trust Diversity & Inclusion Working Group, reports on the progress the group is making to combat discrimination of all kinds.

The Diversity and Inclusion Group, formed by volunteers and headed by a Dons Trust Board member, continues to make strides in working with the club in this important and complex area. We recognise the issues facing football clubs and fans alike, as highlighted by recent incidents at Haringey Borough and in Bulgaria, and it sometimes feels as though it’s one step forward and two steps back.

The club wants to be part of the momentum going forward, with a zero-tolerance approach to unacceptable behaviour. As we prepare to return to Plough Lane, it is important to acknowledge the diverse community that lives and works around our new stadium and to be welcoming to new and existing fans alike.

Fans for Diversity

At the recent Fans for Diversity conference organised by the Football Supporters’ Association, I and a Dons Trust Board member were among 250 delegates celebrating the immense achievements of fans-led initiatives to increase awareness of issues at football matches. We met some very inspiring people and heard some fantastic speakers, including Anwar Uddin, from Fans for Diversity (FFD), and Troy Townsend, both at the forefront for change.

FFD is a campaign run in partnership with the Football Supporters’ Association and Kick It Out to launch and support fans’ groups. The Dons Trust’s D&I group can advise fans who are keen to start fans-led groups and events on getting resources and assistance. So if you want to set up a women’s group, a teen fan group or an LGBTQ+ group, then give us a shout. You can read about the conference and the inspirational award-winners.

Kick It Out

Kick It Out is a great source of information that is helping us and other clubs as we strive to get this very important matter right. As usual, we will be having a Kick It Out day at the club, with the D&I group planning to mark this event. It will be on 18 January, when we are at home to Peterborough United.

Last year, the D&I group looked at introducing a revised statement about hate speech and discriminatory behaviour at the club on match days. The policy was rolled out across the club, and the D&I group are currently advising on improving the ease with which fans can report abuse.

Fans have to feel confident and safe when reporting abusive behaviour, so we are going to make it as easy for them as we possibly can.

Autism Awareness Week and Women at the Game

This year we celebrated Autism Awareness Week by trialling innovative sensory packs to make the matchday experience enjoyable and manageable. Each pack includes noise-reducing ear defenders, fidget spinners and a programme. Packs can be pre-ordered by emailing amanda.bynon@afcwimbledon.ltd.uk.

Another D&I initiative was to provide free sanitary products in the ladies toilets on matchdays. The club believes that no-one should have to go without such essentials when they are supporting their club.

On a related note, we are hosting our Women at the Game event on 22 February, the day of our home fixture against Blackpool. We are in the process of inviting 15 women who have never been to a football match before, so that they can experience how enjoyable and positive a day out at the Dons can be. We are hoping to be able to offer them a tour of the stadium in advance so that the environment will feel familiar on the match day.

Foodbank

Wimbledon Foodbank logoFinally, we are as a club and a community proud to support the foodbank initiative that most recently collected 189kg of food bound for Wimbledon Foodbank. They opened in 2011, and last year handed out 4,259 packs of three-day crisis foodstuffs to those in need. The amount we collected shows how community-minded our fans are, so look out for club announcements about future collection days and which products are needed most.

If you would like to join the D&I group, you would be very welcome: please email contact@thedonstrust.org for more information.

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