Does Equality, Diversity and Inclusion really matter? The fact that the question is even being asked is bewildering in this day and age, writes Dons Trust Board member Anne-Marie Godfrey.
As owners of the club, the Dons Trust has a unique role to play in the long-term stability of AFC Wimbledon. We cannot live in the dark ages with our heads buried in the sand. Our aim has to be to leave the club in a better state than we inherited it. The board members are united in this message and since being co-opted I have admired the genuine passion and dedication towards diversity and inclusion. To do so, we cannot be passive. We have to look to grow without ever compromising our core Unique Selling Point – fan ownership.
So how can we grow? If you look around you, ask a simple question: Who is not here? And why not?
AFC Wimbledon straddles the boroughs of Merton and Wandsworth. In Merton, only 64% of the population is White British, the median age in Wandsworth is 32 and there are nearly 300,000 LGBTI people in London. And that’s before we remember that half the population is female. The reality is that we need to be more welcoming if we are to grow our fanbase. So, what does that mean?
One of the most obvious ways that makes any environment more comfortable is to have people around you with which you can identify. That’s what makes initiatives like Rainbow Laces, Kick It Out, and Women at the Game so important. But they cannot be seen as one offs. We need to make it ingrained culturally so that all those groups want to come and watch AFC Wimbledon.
It can be simply measures like ensuring there are sanitary towels in the women’s toilets, the food outlets include cultural diverse offering, kids feel welcome and are supported. And most importantly our fans are empowered to make informed decisions to ensure a zero-tolerance attitude to prejudice is not just accepted but institutionalised throughout the club and the fanbase.
We have seen great initiatives at our club in recent years, notably Our Club Our Shirt campaign and the great work of our Foundation. But ultimately, we are a Fans’ Club, and we can never rest. We need our supporters. We need your ideas and your outreach. Every step your take however minor you make to make our club more inclusive will help us grow.
Please take that step.