The award was nominated by initial project partner Kick It Out (KIO), the anti-racism and discrimination charity. Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) jointly launched the ‘Fans For Diversity’ campaign in March 2014, supported by the Premier League’s fans fund, to help target a number of fan initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion across the professional and non-league game and the O’s Hub was born through a conversation between Anwar Uddin, Fans For Diversity Campaign Leader, and Leyton Orient’s Community Liaison Officer, Howard Gould.
“We empower fans, helping them to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the game. We encourage and support events and activities that highlight fans working together to promote diversity,” stated Anwar. “Knowing of the already excellent work taking place at Leyton Orient, I approached the Club to introduce them to the FFD campaign. What has developed since that meeting just over a year ago has been a wonderful example of how, even with limited resources, some vision, initiative, support and desire can transform a derelict space into a warm, welcoming environment for individuals and groups to attend their local Football Club on a matchday and especially those who may have never attended a live football match before.”
During its inaugural season, the Hub hosted over 20 varied and diverse groups to matchdays at the O’s, welcoming over 600 new faces to the Club including a local Ladies Asian Club. “We have lived in Leyton for nearly 40 years,” said one attendee, “and my children love football but I have never been here before. I’m so glad I have had this opportunity thanks to the community work [delivered by Leyton Orient Trust] and it’s very exciting. I hope to come back again with my boys!”
At the awards, the O’s were up against some significant opposition in: Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Sunderland and Glasgow Rangers, and congratulations went to overall winners Sunderland AFC.
“Just to reach this stage of the competition is a tremendously proud achievement,” said Howard. “I was delighted when Tom Taylor (Media and Communications Manager at KIO) asked me to join him at the awards evening. To be up there in such esteemed company was highly rewarding for the work the Club has done within its community and the efforts applied in collaboration with the Fans For Diversity campaign.”
The Hub is based in the old player’s lounge in the East Stand of the Matchroom Stadium and was refurbished by O’s fan Stuart Minchin and his company, First Class Facilities Management. “Stuart won the tender and as an O’s fan, really did add some loving care into the rejuvenation of what had become a very sad area of the ground. It really does suit its purpose but we haven’t stopped looking at how we can further develop the Hub to enhance the overall matchday experience.”
Booked for use on each matchday once again this season, it is also available during the week as part of the Club’s community facilities availability. If you would like more information on the Hub and how to utilise it, please contact Howard via email: [email protected]