Since the start of the Football For All project in 2014, we have had overwhelming support from our supporters on social media. Quite simply, i don’t think Football For All would be such a success without that support. Not only has social media allowed us to spread the word about the project and get more people involved, but we’ve also had some amazing donations of football boots, old football shirts that we could put to use and also ran competitions to help us raise funds to pay for new kit.
The project itself has become self-sufficient in the last 12 months, something which we are extremely proud of. Due to increased participation last year we even started to operate at a slight ‘profit’, which we were always conscious of. We don’t want to be running the project for a profit, so we lowered the cost of participating and then established a kitchen fund which would receive the slight profits we were making and go towards providing hot meals for refugees and asylum seekers once a month at the PAFRAS drop-in session.(more info: https://yorkshirestpauli.com/2016/08/13/yorkshire-st-pauli-kitchen-fund/).
But as most football clubs and teams who run similar initiatives to ours will know, keeping on top of kit and equipment is a constant nightmare. When people turn up without kit, we try and give them some to take home and keep, and hopefully fetch with them if they play again. We’ve only ever bought a few pairs of football boots due to the fact that brilliant people online post us boots from all over the world. (if you’ve got some, we still need more!) We put these boots to good use, but obviously some pairs become worn and unusable, and other shoes go missing leaving odd boots in the kit bag to cause confusion every week.
Quite understandably, people don’t send us their old and smelly goalie gloves or shinpads, so we have to replace these regularly even if some players try and refuse to wear them! Then there’s football’s. The worst of the lot. If they’re not bursting or constantly going flat, they’re trying to escape. We lost several in one tournament over the summer, booted onto surrounding roads, somehow avoiding oncoming cars and bouncing down the road never to be retrieved.
Then on top of all that there’s bags to keep the kit in. Enough kit to provide for 50 people, bibs, balls, boots, we fill three cars with it each week. We’ve got two kit bags for weekly use plus another with our 11-a-side kit, a bag for bibs, a ball bag/ball sack (that’s the technical term, honest!), water bottles, the list is endless.
The primary aim of our crowdfunding is to ensure we can replace old kit and boots, and continue to provide for everybody if attendances continue to rise as expected over the next few months. We didn’t want to rely on funding. We want to continue to make the initiative simple and keep its organic feel.
Secondly, the crowdfunding campaign will hopefully give us scope to look at ideas to develop the way in which the project works and hopefully provide opportunities for our users to gain skills through the project – for example, coaching or refereeing qualifications and opportunities that people may not ordinarily have access to, or first aid courses that are important to ensure we have people available who are trained in the event of serious injuries or medical emergencies. Whilst we are always conscious of making changes to such a successful initiative, we also don’t want to shy away from providing opportunities that could benefit our users and help us develop.
Finally, we want ‘Football For All’ to continue to grow. We currently average between 25 and 35 participants each week, and whilst the idea of us somehow reaching 50 participants is scary and daunting (it’s hard enough organising one match, let alone three simultaneously!) we are determined to ensure we can reach as many people as possible. Just this last week we have seen several new participants who have attended for the first time. One individual was relatively new to Leeds and knew nobody in the local area, but he left football on Sunday with dozens of new friends. The football and the score is unimportant, but the social aspects involved; the new friendships, the friendly welcome and the social inclusion aspects are the key. It’s for those reasons that we want to continue to expand, to open it up to as many people as possible and expand that warm welcome to people who don’t have the opportunity to play football and meet new people.
That’s why we’re crowdfunding. The anti-immigration and far-Right rhetoric that has underpinned major political events in the past year has seen the ‘normalisation’ of discrimination whether it be racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or other discriminatory factors. ‘Football For All’ is a project that seeks to undermine this discourse and, through football, provide a sense of belonging and community in a society that currently feels more divided than ever. We aim to show that compassion, hope, understanding and solidarity trumps hate, ignorance and division and that another society is possible.
Thank you to all those who have helped us raise £400 so far, and to all those who have supported us since we began this by sending boots and kit, this genuinely wouldn’t be possible without you. As a thank you, we will be sending stickers and a Yorkshire St. Pauli badge to anyone who donates £5 or more via our Crowdfunding page. Just message us on Facebook or Twitter with your address if you have donated and would like us to post these to you.
For anyone wanting to donate to our Crowdfunding, this is the link: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/yorkshirest-pauli