Football Welcomes, a weekend of action for football clubs coordinated by Amnesty, marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of some of the first refugees to play professional football here. They were child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, evacuated to the UK after the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937.
Supported by the English Football League, a range of Premier League clubs and the FA Women’s Super League, Football Welcomes also aims to highlight the important role football clubs can play in promoting community cohesion.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Refugees have made an important contribution to this much-loved game and their communities throughout the years.
“We are delighted that so many football clubs, who lie at the heart of these communities, are embracing this. They have a key role to play in helping to promote respect, understanding and integration.
“Eighty years on from the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War, horrific violence is again forcing many people to flee their homes, leaving everything behind as they look for safety elsewhere.
“We’re very pleased to be working with football clubs to help make refugees who have come to the UK feel welcome. This is the first year of Football Welcomes and we’d love it to become a key fixture in the football calendar for years to come.”
Football Welcomes is part of Amnesty International’s I Welcome campaign for a better international response to the global refugee crisis. The campaign encourages local communities to work together to create a more welcoming environment for people fleeing conflict and persecution.
Shaun Harvey, EFL Chief Executive, said: "The EFL is proud to be supporting Amnesty International's Football Welcomes campaign to recognise the significant and lasting contribution refugees have made to the professional game over the past 80 years.
“Just this month in the Checkatrade Trophy Final the opening goal was scored by Gael Bigirimana, who moved to England in 2004 from Burundi, a goal that helped secure his club a memorable victory at Wembley.
"Our 72 clubs are at the very heart of our communities across England and Wales and have an integral part to play in community cohesion.”