Sky Sports have filmed a feature on a group of football-playing Syrian refugees from Burnley and Pendle who have fallen in love with the Clarets thanks to free football sessions put on by the club's official charity, Burnley FC in the Community.
Amidst reports of racism in football sadly being on the increase lately, resulting in 86% fans having witnessed a racist incident at a game according to a Sky Data Poll, Sky Sports were alerted to the sterling work being carried out with local refugees in Burnley and Pendle by the Burnley, Pendle & Rossendale CVS (BPRCVS).
With some refugees expressing a strong desire to play football last year, BPRCVS approached BFCitC to arrange free sessions, with the free weekly one hour session now attracting as many as twenty players, with BFCitC coaches delivering short training exercises followed by a friendly match. Intrigued, Sky Sports came up last month to film one of the sessions for their regular Tackling Racism feature.
With 93% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) supporters having seen racism at UK football matches and 71% of BAME fans having been the victims of racial abuse, Sky Sports asked the refugees their opinions of racism in football and how they have found integrating into their new communities.
Despite only arriving in the UK recently - most with no English - the enthusiastic answers from the newly-converted Clarets fans revealed how welcome they had been made to feel in Burnley and Pendle, with none of the refugees reporting any direct racism either at football or in their local communities.
“They love playing football and they were very excited to be asked to share their views and experiences with Sky Sports News on a prevalent topic of the moment," said Allison Lindgren, English for Speakers of Other Languages Coordinator. "They all spoke very well having only just learned English.
"It was pleasing to hear they hadn’t experienced any racism and found integrating into their new communities to be a positive experience," Allison added, with BPRCVS also hoping to organise fitness sessions for female refugees in the near future.
What is more, ahead of Burnley's match against Leicester City last month, some of the Syrian Clarets even got the chance to play against a team made up of Sudanese refugees based in Leicester at the Leisure Box in Brierfield. After the match both teams of players enjoyed homemade Syrian food and made their way to the Turf to watch the match - for more, their first every Premier League game.
Lancashire Association of CVS (LACVS) is funded by Lancashire County Council to facilitate the Lancashire Refugee Programme and appointed BPRCVS to support Syrian refugees in Burnley and Pendle, while the Syrian refugees are also supported to attend English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes to learn English.