If you’ve never questioned the idea that you can go to a football match it probably seems a bit weird to say the least that someone might need is to be invited or encouraged to go, especially to a Lincoln City game where we know the atmosphere is incredible.
But there are groups and communities who still have a perception that the game may not be a welcoming environment – especially if all they see is media coverage of issues caused by a very small number of people intent on causing mayhem or the negatives of social media. We know that doesn’t generally reflect the matchday experience we know and love at the ground. Some might be regular viewers of TV football, but never ventured into the LNER Sincil Bank stadium.
So, in an effort to show those groups the positives live football can bring and to encourage everyone no matter their background to support the Imps however they can the hashtag #ImpsMatchdayWelcome has been created. In essence, fans are coming together to invite different groups in the county to every league home game during the season. To do that we need to raise money to buy some Season Membership tickets and the club has agreed to match the number of seats we can get. It would be great to offer four seats per game if we can.
That’s where the raffle comes in. The fundraising is being done by offering the opportunity to win a pair of Season Memberships along with other prizes via the Raffle on the Lady Imps website. To buy a ticket, visit the L.I.S.A website here. Currently, another 80 ticket sales should allow us to supply four tickets to under represented groups in the area.
In addition, those groups will also be invited to experience a Lincoln City Women FC game at Lincoln Moorlands Railway AFC, Newark Rd, Lincoln.
A small group of fans including representatives from RICT, Stacey West Podcast (co-host Ben and his much better half, Rach), Lady Imps and Lincoln City Pride will actively approach groups, but nominations for consideration can be made via the email; email@example.com.
It’s just one of a number of initiatives the club is supporting as part of its wider inclusion agenda, something the club is working on across different aspects of the game.
Why would someone feel they couldn’t come to a game?
It’s a great question, isn’t it? Why would someone feel they couldn’t come to a Lincoln City game? It seems inconceivable now doesn’t it, in the modern-day, when the ground is so family-friendly, but it isn’t.
Personal experience: It might be a previous negative experience around football has put people off trying again. A minority group only has to hear racist language once and it might stop them from attending. Case point: in 2011 I recall arguing with a fan about the abuse he was directing at a Polish goalkeeper. With a large Polish community around Sincil Bank, that sort of ‘banter’, which is actually racist abuse, could easily have stopped them coming again.
Lack of experience: If you are from a minority group, perhaps having been subject to discrimination in other settings, what would give you the confidence to think you can stroll into an unfamiliar environment, with thousands of other people who know what they’re doing? They all seem to know each other and probably all look fairly similar when you may be obviously ‘different’. That’s a big ask in most people’s book and while you might argue that going to a gig or a festival is the same thing, big crowds etc. let’s be right, football IS different, it is tribal and there are unwritten ‘codes of conduct’. If you have no reference points because you’ve never been before that’s daunting. It might be as basic as how to buy a ticket and where to sit. Things that seem obvious to regular fans can seem complicated to the uninitiated.
The media and social media: We know the TV and radio will do features with excitable fans prior to a BIG game, all positive and bubbly. Understandably the negatives, greed, corruption, abuse and yes sometimes violence, are also widely reported. It’s our view that the negatives are often skewed with generalisations and outdated stereotypes about fans. In our experience violence directly related to football is extremely rare, but you might not think that if you follow media coverage. However, the coverage of a lot of positive amazing work done to celebrate the game is sparse to say the least. Put it this way – this article might get 500 views, it might get more, but the second we put something up about fans fighting, trouble on the terraces or the like, the engagement shoots up. Sadly, social media again often reflects the worst some so-called ‘fans’ bring to the game, seeing abusive or unwelcoming language will put potential fans off. The landscape is changing .. and there are many social media accounts promoting football for everyone, #FansForDiversity being one.
History: Let’s face it anyone over the age of 40 remembers the news stories – in fact, any coverage of football in the ’70s and ’80s. The imagery is memorable, and it’s not an environment you’d want to take your kids to. While it might not be like that anymore – memories and perceptions linger and get passed down the generations. I think about the Bangladeshi community living on the doorstep of Valley Parade, Children hurried inside by anxious parents on match day while the ‘fans’ stomped down their streets shouting racist abuse and throwing bricks. Those children are now parents. Why would you think it’s changed – unless you see it for yourself? What would make you want to take the risk? Why, when stories such as this appear in the local press after a game, would you believe things have changed? (Before the Echo hate me even more, I’m generalising about what gets written and read, not on your reporting). There were thousands at that game, but where is the headline in thousands of fans have great time at a game?