Refugee crisis: Arsenal to raise funds by donating £1 from every ticket sold for game against Stoke City

Disappointing response from Premier League clubs to help those in need

Ian Herbert,Mark Critchley
Thursday 10 September 2015 22:55 BST
The then Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in an army barracks in Germany after the club donated sportswear to refugees who were staying there last year
The then Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in an army barracks in Germany after the club donated sportswear to refugees who were staying there last year (Getty)

The fans of a mere 11 English football clubs have committed themselves to this weekend’s campaign of support for victims of the refugee crisis, with Arsenal the solitary club to be dedicating revenue from their fixture to help the millions who are homeless.

Amnesty International praised the example Arsenal have set, in donating £1 from every ticket sale for Saturday’s home game against Stoke City, but expressed surprise that the multi-billion-pound English game, with its international players and fanbase, had not yet recognised the vast level of displacement which has left millions seeking shelter.

Amnesty’s Naomi Westland said: “It’s great to see Arsenal taking the lead among English clubs in donating money from sales of tickets to this weekend’s game to help alleviate the refugee crisis, but a shame that it is the only club in the Premier League to do so, so far. There is a huge opportunity here; where football leads millions will follow. As Europe faces the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, football clubs can use their power and influence to show solidarity with people in desperate need and help make a difference, whether that’s by donating money, offering use of their facilities or with symbolic gestures like giving refugee children the chance to be a mascot.”

So far, the clubs whose fans had declared support for the Facebook campaign for an “English Football League Day of Solidarity” by unfurling #refugeeswelcome banners are: Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town, AFC Wimbledon and Plymouth Argyle. And in non-league football: Bath City, Dulwich Hamlet, FC United and Clapton. In Scotland, Celtic are also active supporters of the message.

The size of the English contribution suggests that the imagination of the game –the ultimate multi-national sport – has simply not been captured by the biggest humanitarian crisis in 60 years. The Independent’s attempts to establish whether the supporters’ trusts of the biggest clubs were planning action have met with either no response or no suggestions of action in solidarity.

Premier League clubs have agreed to help Save the Children send out messages to encourage support. For the next two rounds of Premier League games, a large Save the Children text/donate flag will be displayed during each of the pre-match handshake routines – rather than the usual “Get on with the Game” flag. Premier League perimeter board advertising space will also be allocated to Save the Children.

The Premier League has also sought to help by assembling a list of individual clubs’ guidance on banners. Most of clubs state that banners must be “non-offensive”, though Villa’s instructions suggest that banners referring to immigrants will not be welcome at the side’s next home game, against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday week.

Villa state in the Premier League advice sheet: “For home supporters there are no obvious areas for banners to be displayed.” It adds: “We would also ask that banners focus on support for the Villa.” Of all the Premier League clubs, Norwich City are most responsive to the idea of banners, saying they are “happy to allow supporters to bring banners into Carrow Road”, though asking that prior approval be sought.

Dena Nakeeb, organiser of the Refugee EFL campaign, said of Villa’s stance: “If they are not accepting banners, fans will somehow have to smuggle them in.”

English clubs are joining in a Uefa-wide effort, in which the 80 teams in this season’s Champions League and Europa League have agreed to donate €1 per ticket from their first home games to help the refugee crisis. But the scale of English football’s engagement is frankly embarrassing compared with Germany, where every Bundesliga club has pledged to be involved.

Bayern Munich players will – in an act of solidarity – walk out hand-in-hand with both a German and a refugee child as a mark of support for the integration of refugees, at the home match against Augsburg on Saturday. Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen have also invited refugees to lead out their players as mascots.

Led by the captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, a group of the Germany national team’s players have appeared in a video holding up signs calling for “respect” towards any refugee arriving in Germany. Midfielder Toni Kroos said: “My attitude is that Germany, as one of the richest countries on earth, must help.”

One of the most imaginative British campaigns has come from outside of the supporters’ clubs. The Philosophy Football T-shirt company has launched a drive to secure scarves from clubs, which will be taken to the Calais camp on a convoy leaving Wembley.

“Woollens are on the list of goods the refugee charities most need and fans can help out with lorryloads of scarves taken to the camp by a Wembley-to-Calais convoy,” said Philosophy Football’s co-founder Mark Perryman, whose company have also designed a T-shirt bearing the slogan: “Refugees are our Football Family.”

Clubbing together: Football’s response

So far the planned activity of English clubs supporting the #refugeeswelcome initiative this weekend will be limited to the following:

Arsenal (also donating £1 per ticket sold for match against Stoke)

Aston Villa

Newcastle United

Norwich City (welcome banners for match with Bournemouth)

Charlton Athletic

Swindon Town

AFC Wimbledon

Plymouth Argyle


Bath City

Dulwich Hamlet

FC United


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