Football For All

Yorkshire St. Pauli FC recently featured on the BBC as part of their coverage of the FA’s ‘Peoples Cup’. You can read about it and watch the video here:


FC St. Pauli are a German second division football team, who are more notable for their actions off the pitch than those on it. The club has a strong and non-negotiable stance on discrimination. Everyone is equal. There is no exception to the rule. Each fanclub agrees to a constitution which states that they will not condone “any form of discrimination against people” and will act “against all forms of racism, sexism and hooliganism, and also against any kind of contempt and discrimination against an individual’s preferences or inclinations”. That isn’t just an empty motto or a standard guideline as used by most football clubs, it is a rule that is actively followed and supported by the fans of St. Pauli and their fanclubs across the world.

Our fanclub, Yorkshire St. Pauli, actively promotes this anti-discrimination message by not only echoing the sentiment but actively working within the community to help promote it. In the past couple of years we have worked closely with Leeds refugee charity PAFRAS (Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers), to provide not only financial support through our membership but also by welcoming their service users into our group. PAFRAS works with refugees, asylum seekers and the wider community to counter the effects of enforced destitution on vulnerable migrants. Their work has three main strands; providing immediate humanitarian relief; long- term support, advice and advocacy aimed at assisting service users to make lasting improvements to their situations and also raising awareness and campaigning locally and nationally on issues affecting their service users.

Having established a connection with some of their service users and welcoming them to our meetings to watch St. Pauli matches with us, we noticed that many of them were keen to be able to play football, but lacked kit and facilities in order to do so. In 2013 we set about trying to find a way to provide this. The idea was to get a local 5-a-side pitch, ask our members to come along and play and cover the cost of the pitch hire between us in order to then allow PAFRAS service users to play for free. We contacted 5-a-side companies in Leeds and explained what we were trying to achieve, and asking if they would be willing to give us a discount on pitch hire in order to help subsidise the project. We had one reply. Thankfully that reply was from the manager at Powerleague Leeds Central, who was really enthusiastic about what we were trying to achieve and was happy to offer us a generous discount.

The other aspect of the project was being able to provide equipment for the Refugees and Asylum Seekers to use. We had to ensure that we could provide for everyone who turned up with everything they would need – boots, shirts, shorts, socks, shinpads. Not to mention footballs and water bottles. Thankfully, through our members and followers on social media we collected donations in order to raise enough money for this, and the club also sent us some kit to add to our collection. Our kit bag is now a colourful collection of football shirts from around the globe! As well as this, our members also provide transport to and from areas of Leeds in order to allow people without access to transport to attend.

Almost two years on on, and our ‘Football For All’ project as it has become known is going from strength to strength. Our aim isn’t to win any trophies, it’s simply to have a kickabout in a friendly and uncompetitive environment that is welcoming and accessible to anyone. It’s also vital that the environment is both safe and inclusive. The project is well attended by our members, by PAFRAS service users, and other members of the general public who have heard about it on social media or through word of mouth and who have come down and joined in. It’s a real community affair, which is open to all and provides much more than simply a friendly kickabout of a football.

The ‘Football For All’ kickabout takes place at Lucozade Powerleague Leeds Central on Wellington Bridge Street, Leeds at every Sunday at 12pm. Everyone is welcome.