Tag Archives: sport

The sport for everyone

On 1st December the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre offered a special evening of discussion and debates about the inclusion for people from the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGB&T) communities in the football field. The panel saw professional football figures arguing about how this sport takes its next steps on to be the game that is truly ‘for everyone’.

The event began with a brief presentation by Dr. Andy Harvey from Birkbeck, who introduced the argument and all senior figures who took part. The first who joined the debate was Roisin Wood, Chief Executive of the independent campaigning organization Kick it Out. The core aim of the organization is to tackle all forms of discrimination and in the meantime working with the football authorities, professional clubs, players, fans and communities to avoid this. She stressed how is important to report any kind of discrimination incidents and abusive language. For this reason, Kick It Out has just  launched a new mobile app that allows fans to report that. They also are working with the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) and promote an important programme called “Fans for diversity” with the purpose of support LGB&T fans groups and their facilities.

Fans for Diversity- Kick It Out

The seminar also involved an ex English professional footballer, Bobby Barnes, who now is Deputy Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA). Starting to talk about campaigns against racism, he highlighted that often the best people who promote the LGB&T community are those who realized that discrimination is wrong by own reflections. However, Barnes emphasized that work needs to be done, for this reason the PFA will run education sessions around these themes, underling also that ‘Football should be open to all, is the people’ sport.

Mark Gonnella

Promoter of this philosophy is also Arsenal F. C. Communications Director Mark Gonnella who based his speech on how it is important promoting values and actions as a first class club. He noted that the only thing essential in football is the ability and the wish to perform in a club ‘Passports, race, sexuality or any other characteristic are unimportant in building a team.‘ Gonnella was keen to promote the ‘Arsenal way’ and the born of some campaigns as ‘Arsenal for everyone’. However, he added: ‘One of the thing I am more proud about was the conversation with one gay supporter in order to set up a group,’ he said. ‘Go on and do it, I told him. I have the responsibility to encourage them as club.’ The group, formed two years ago, grew up quickly (at present over 200 members) and had good responses from fans around the world. ‘Football has to open doors in any kind of support. From Arsenal point of view we know, we support,’ he concluded.

Kelly Simmons

The last guest speaker, before an open debate with all people from the floor, was Kelly Simmons, Director of National Game and Women’s Football for the Football Association (FA). The FA worked next to Kick It Out for important events and will start the Football v Homophobia campaign in February, encouraging grass roots clubs to take part in it. Reminding the business sense to not exclude anybody from football, she reported also that football is not only a man’ sport, women’s football is presenting an impressive growth. She stressed the FA’s work in promoting and ensuring LGB&T inclusion at every level, especially organizing workshops for football clubs.

Thus, Dr. Harvey was keen to highlight by his blog how this event could be significant for our university: ‘From a Birkbeck perspective, the evening opens up possible avenues for research, especially into fan cultures and attitudes, as well as in evaluating the plethora of measures that are being taken to promote inclusion across football at every level.’ Overall, the seminar was really interesting, especially underling how much progress has been made and what still need to achieve and ensure more inclusion. Football is for everyone and everyone has to be responsible to tackle discrimination.

Surprising Sports Night @ Royal Albert Hall

Fellow tennis enthusiasts would agree: A Saturday evening dedicated entirely to sport and entertainment – who could ask for more?

The 18th year of the Statoil Masters Tennis tournament was simply amazing. The Royal Albert Hall, one of the most incredible venues in London, was the perfect setting for this event, which ran from 3rd to 7th of December.

The tournament saw some of the greatest tennis legends of all time, including John McEnroe, Pat Cash, and Henri Leconte.  Also playing in doubles or exhibition matches were Wayne Ferreira, Jamie Murray, Peter McNamara, Mansour Bahrami, Andrew Castle, and Ross Hutchins, making his debut at the event.

Players Tim Henman, Andy Roddick, Fernando Gonzalez, Greg Rusedski, Xavier Malisse, Sergi Bruguera, and Thomas Enqvist contended in an ATP Champions Tour field, where were eligible only athletes who ranked number one in the world, played in a Grand Slam singles final, or played singles for the winning team in a Davis Cup Final could compete.

Expectations for the event were far exceeded, as the event enjoyed record ticket-sales this year. The veteran McEnroe affirms:

I’ve played the Statoil Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall almost every year since it began in 1997. That’s because it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world to play tennis, the acoustics are incredible, and I’ve won it a number of times. I’m already looking forward to getting back there in front of the great crowds they have, and to try to win it again.

Malisse vs Roddick
Malisse vs Roddick

The wonderful entertainment of 6th December’s evening began with a single match between Roddick and Malisse. Roddick returns to London for the first time after a 2009 Wimbledon Final against Roger Federer. This time he defeated Belgian player Malisse 6-4, 6-2, to move on to the final against Gonzalez. The atmosphere for this match was wild, as the players laughed while showing off their personal tricks. “I never had so much fun losing,” admitted Malisse.

Continuing on with the night, Cash, Castle, Ferreira, and Leconte joined the court. From the onset, this double match was hilarious – a real show – especially thanks to the French player Leconte, who entertained the crowd with funny gags.  While everyone kept smiling and enjoying it, the players didn’t miss the chance to perform great hits.

Cash/Castle vs Ferreira/ Leconte
Cash/Castle vs Ferreira/ Leconte

On Sunday 7th December, the 34-year-old Chilean player, Fernando Gonzalez, who also had his debut in this competition, became the new Statoil Masters Tennis Champion. He won 6-4, 2-6, 10-4 against Roddick. “This is great to win this tournament. This week has been amazing and I enjoyed this match against Andy a lot. It was very tough, we had very long points, and my body will feel bad tomorrow,” Gonzalez said, adding, “This is so fun because after you retire you never think you are going to be back on a court like this. I have enjoyed it really a lot.”

To relive a great event with the greatest legends of tennis, I have marked my calendar for next year. My advice for everyone is to join the experience for at least one night of the event. Let’s relax, drink a beer, and enjoy this surprising sports show!