The four-point mantra declares the demands of young fans in a divided football industry.
We, at Football Beyond Borders, prioritise the voices of young people in our aim to be the catalyst for change. In an infamous period of football history, these very young people are the ones who have been left out of the conversation on what the new face of football should look like.
Following assertions from Real Madrid President Florentino Perez that “young people are no longer interested in football,” in the week the infamous European Super League was announced, we launched our Young Voices survey, receiving over 2,000 responses from young people; 95% of young people rejected the ESL proposal. The FBB survey proved that the next generation want their voices to be heard on issues like this, with many providing pragmatic suggestions allowing young people to actually be engaged.
“it takes away everything this generation grew up with and more.”
The entire sporting world witnessed the consequences of allowing a privileged few to make decisions in their best interests, impacting the next generation of players and fans. Yet again, we have seen young people’s voices being neglected, in the government-lead ‘Save The Beautiful Game’ panel, including members from across the football community, but there is no youth representation.
But now, we’re taking this to the next level. Football Beyond Borders are today launching our Football For The Future manifesto after conducting workshops with our young participants on how they want to shape the future of the beautiful game.
Increase accessibility for young people to engage with and attend football matches.
Women’s football to be given an equal platform as well as increased opportunities for girls from a young age.
More accountability on clubs, players and fans when it comes to incidents of racism and anti-discrimination.
Clubs should take the initiative in aiding their communities.
To set our manifesto in motion, we gathered a group of FBB participants at the iconic Truman Brewery in Brick Lane to respond to the Perez’ claims in their own words.
Over the next month we will focus on each point and what they mean in the eyes of young people, with every step of our manifesto rollout being shaped by FBB participants and young voices across the country. Contrary to the somewhat absurd belief that young people have become apathetic to football, by actually speaking to young people, we know that young fans have a burning desire for the game that needs to be noticed now more than ever.
In our initial workshop with participants from the North West, our young people presented an immense passion for club and continental football but felt matchday prices created an accessibility barrier between them and their team.
For these young fans, their obsession with their club, the experience of seeing live football alongside fellow fans and raw emotion seeing their team play shone through. In their words, the only disengagement between them that occurs in football is when clubs prevent them from supporting their team to the fullest extent, from out-pricing them when it comes to tickets and kits to schemes such as the Super League, denying them the opportunities to be fully involved in their individual football communities.
“People starting chants, The way everyone jumps up when we score; It’s just contagious. We’ve all come here together for the same purpose but not everyone can afford to go to games”.
– Rupert, 14, FBB Participant & Aston Villa fan.
Our panel of young people covered a range of voices from schools across the country providing demands for a fairer game. The future of football should encourage young people to become a part of the game, regardless of gender. Young women still believe they are not taken seriously or that they are given a platform at grassroots and professional levels, preventing many from being a part of the game, both as fans and players. Our young people were united in action being taken to ensure an equal starting point, with continued support that will allow talented and passionate girls to be a part of the game. The FFTF manifesto ensures that the future of football will be available for all.
As it stands, however, football is not set up as an equal playing field. Only 20% of Premier League clubs provide a pre-academy facility for girls, as opposed to the entire 20 clubs which offer the same facility for boys (Newsround).
Ceylon Andi Hickman, Head of Impact & Female Participation at FBB said: “We need to go beyond representation – yes, you need to see it to believe it – but you also need the tools, facilities, confidence, relationships, access and various forms of capital in order for girls to truly be included in the game at every level.
“Professional clubs, bodies, brands and government all have the power to make this happen, and we must continue to demand that they do,” she said.
Every single young person we asked demanded accountability for incidents of discrimination. The responses from clubs and media organisations alike are not enough. Football, both in person and online should be a safe space, especially for young people, yet on a daily basis we are seeing racist and homophobic abuse towards players and fans without repercussion. Consequently, our manifesto highlights the paramount importance of kicking this behaviour out of the game.
It is a lack of accountability and support from clubs that are repressing young people within the community. Communities that do not get the allyship they require to flourish to their full extent. Football For The Future is not just a proposal, it is a requirement based on a clubs remit to engage and support within their unique communities, taking into account young people rather than corporate cravings.
Our game depends on young people having a seat at the table. Whilst, from the perspective of many, the footballing world seems to be in a dire state, there is always hope. Hope that the future of football will take into account the next generation of player, fan and society. The manifesto is just the start.