News: #EqualGame focus at London sports business summit

Thursday 5 October 2017 16.09 CET

The #EqualGame campaign, launched in August 2017, was the basis of a keynote panel discussion at the Leaders Sports Business Summit, which brings together senior sports business executives and other stakeholders for four days of debate, exchange and networking.

The theme of the panel session, attended by around 150 delegates and media representatives, was the importance of championing diversity, inclusion and accessibility in football – three key UEFA values that are also the pillars of the #EqualGame campaign.

The panel comprised players – former English Premier League professionals Kolo Touré and Claude Makélélé, as well as former English women’s international Alex Scott – English referee Ryan Atkin and UEFA’s head of corporate communications Peter Klomp. The session was moderated by UEFA managing director of communications, Pedro Pinto.

Through their personal experiences and stories, the panel highlighted the importance of the game as a crucial social force that breaks down barriers and helps unite people – communicating the message that football is a game for everybody regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs – all key elements of #EqualGame’s vision.

The panel highlighted why reinforcing diversity and inclusion is a clear priority for the football world – underlining that there are many ways to play the game and that everyone can find a pathway to enjoy football, which will help it grow and develop further.

“Coming from Africa, I wasn’t expecting to have this welcome [in the Premier League],” Touré said of his reception by fans in England. “It shows how important football is. It doesn’t matter who you are, and where you have come from.” “Football gave me everything,” added former French international Makélélé. “It gave me education, opportunity and a good life.”

Ryan Atkin spoke about his recent announcement that he was gay and the reaction it received: “The reaction has been fantastic,” the referee explained. “I did it because the game needs it. The game has an obligation to educate and nurture.”

The panel agreed about the sport’s ability to bring people together so they can accept and appreciate everyone’s differences. “Football helps you learn about different cultures and different environments,” was the view of Alex Scott.

The ability of football to generate a team and family spirit among people of different cultures and backgrounds also was a strong point made during the discussion.

“When you join a team,” Kolo Touré explained, “it is most important to be brothers. Then you start to love each other and respect each other. It creates a good spirit, and that’s what happened at Arsenal.”

“We had players from all over the world, but we played and worked together. We went out together. This showed that you create a family. We are still friends, and I still love my family.”

“It doesn’t matter which country you come from ─ what brings you together is football.”