Meadowbank Football Ground, home of Surrey FA, recently welcomed over 120 refugees of 22 different nationalities to play in a football league designed to support underrepresented groups.
The league, part of a wider project known as ‘Unite Through Football’, was designed by Surrey FA in collaboration with Surrey Police and accommodation supplier, SBHL, to support a network of refugees currently living in Surrey.
Launching on Tuesday 20th September, players were welcomed to Meadowbank by members of Surrey FA, who supplied each team with kit to take part as well as Surrey registered referees to officiate the games.
The launch day reflected months of planning to deliver the largest refugee football offering ever coordinated by a County FA, and the reaction of players was animated as they enjoyed the afternoon.
Speaking on the day, Surrey FA Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Eve Roberts, said:
“It’s been a fantastic afternoon welcoming everyone to take part in this project. In such a short space of time we have been able to get things up and running to make sure that these refugees feel part of the Surrey community. A huge thanks to Surrey Police and SBHL, who have gone above and beyond to support us and make this happen.”
Moving forward, the league will run monthly with all fixtures due to be played at Meadowbank. The ground itself is well known for hosting National League side Dorking Wanderers, but is also managed by Surrey FA and offered to their many community users.
Surrey FA Deputy CEO and Head of Operations, Andrew Dickinson, commented:
“Hosting the Unite Through Football league at Meadowbank has been a real pleasure and it highlights how key this facility is for enabling everyone to be a part of football. 2022 is in effect Meadowbank’s first full operational season since COVID, and it’s great to see a record number of users, including collaborators Surrey Police, benefitting from our state of the art of facility in the heart of Dorking. The Impact of COVID affected Surrey FA and indeed the entire leisure sector in Mole Valley, but our site played and continues to play an important role in enhancing the physical and mental wellbeing of people across all our local communities.”
Representatives of Surrey Police and SBHL were also on hand to roll up their sleeves and give their contribution on the day, helping to arrange travel arrangements and assist with the running of the event.
PC Elliot Hartley, Surrey Police, said:
“It’s been great working with Surrey FA and SBHL with this event and it was great to be a part of the launch. ‘Unite through football’ is an excellent project which allows us to engage with refugees in our local community whilst sharing the joy of playing football.”
Owais Khan, SBHL Communities Relations manager, added:
"SBHL is so grateful to be able to partner with Surrey FA and Surrey Police to provide this opportunity to the refugees in our care. The joy in playing football was obvious for all involved and will be a welcome boost to their mental and physical wellbeing throughout the season."
If you work with refugees and would like to find out more about Unite Through Football, or are looking to get involved in grassroots football in Surrey, please get in touch with Surrey FA directly through the contact information below.
For further information, please contact:
Rob Bryant, Senior Football Development Officer. Rob.Bryant@SurreyFA.com
Eve Roberts, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Officer. Eve.Roberts@SurreyFA.com