By Martin Ryder
In modern times a standard interview question from an employer might be, what do you understand to mean by the word “diversity” and no we are not talking about the dance group! I do know of one occasion that an interviewee answered that question with – it’s when a farmer has hit hard times and they open a farm shop.
Football in the stands has traditionally been a male dominated affair for many years but with the changes in society, ever more diverse and inclusive, ever more multicultural, it’s probably not a bad business model for a club to want to engage with fans whoever they might be and wherever they are from. Diversity is simply about recognising that we are all different and that we might have our own different needs.
In the Fanzine of another club (to remain unnamed) I read the line, “we are all football supporters, gender is irrelevant”. Your initial thought might be it’s a fair point, we all wear red and white, pay our money and then go home. I wonder how that same man would feel however if his club shop only stocked women sized clothing or consider how a single female going to her first game alone might need some additional advice or support?
It’s not a one size fits all and while we all know that LCFC is a welcoming and safe place to be there are those new to football, those who might be from a different culture or with a need invisible to the rest of the crowd. Recently, L.I.S.A with support from the club and Imps in the Community invited the local Eastern European community to attend Sincil Bank. This wasn’t because they were any more deserving but because we wanted to ensure there were no barriers or concerns to hinder their attendance, we can apply the same question to people from any background.
We catered for 30 and 76 attended, 76 more potential Imps in what to our knowledge was the first event of its type. As families (despite living on the doorstep) excitedly took photographs within the stadium it was clear that a hugely positive event was unfolding. Five families were invited as guests to attend a game, those that missed out asked how they could buy tickets – a simple act of friendship and inclusivity was benefitting both our club and community, it has already resulted in additional ticket and merchandise sales and more will no doubt follow.
Our idea was importantly, a fan led initiative. This wasn’t some commercially motivated event, however commercially positive it might have been for the club, this was about a group of existing fans saying, hello, welcome, come and join us. Our group is one of a number trying to do our bit for the Imps, it’s just about looking for ways to make a positive difference rather than looking for negativity often disguised as “banter”. Who better to welcome new supporters than supporters themselves, something we repeated today at the Diversity Festival event we attended at Lincoln University.
Please don’t dismiss the importance of diversity it has the potential to fill a new stadium, bring people and communities together, break down barriers and enable the club to grow much more.
Diversity in support, diversity in the way we support, all the same and yet all different - no harm in that. UTMI