Football appeals to millions of Europeans, regardless of their sexual orientation, colour, gender, age, nationality or religion. It is often a defining factor of identities and communities. The rich local cultural heritage of football and its shared history covering the turbulent 20th century offers direct access to addressing past and present diversity.
Football is an easy game, and for over a century, this game has shaped culture. Football is heritage because people care about this game. It’s stories speak to the imagination, often invoking the language of epic stories, with miracles, heroes, legends and myths. But underneath the thick layer of stories of goals and games, lay layer upon layers of cultural, political, economic and social histories, which can be used to better understand the past and the present, and to set course for an inclusive, sustainable and peaceful future. Here is our manifesto on how football history and heritage should be approached.
The responsibility to help unleash the full potential of football history and football heritage rests on many shoulders. We believe that football history and heritage is too rarely used as a vehicle for social inclusion – be it in the heritage, education or sport sectors. But there are obstacles across these policy areas. To help policy-makers in making the most appropriate decisions they can, we have designed a set of policy and action recommendations.
Do you share our conviction that the diversity of football and football history can help address issues of social exclusion and discrimination? Then support us in giving football history and football heritage the attention it deserves!
You can help. Sign this manifesto and urge policymakers to give football history and football heritage the attention it deserves. Our five-point manifesto calls upon all history teachers, policy makers (in education, sport and culture), youth workers and heritage professionals to:
1. Emphasise and embrace the diversity that exists in football and football history
The diversity of the game and the people who watch and practise it, provide us with a unique opportunity to promote inclusion. All organisations and individuals involved in football and football history should strive to give a voice to those who have so far been left out of popular narratives in football history. Educators, clubs, associations and federations all bear a responsibility to tackle not only the history of success and achievement, but to also look beyond the ‘good stories’ towards people who were excluded or were pioneers in giving the game its current diversity.
2. Provide teachers more flexibility to include football history in education
Educators have, in most countries, limited leeway in incorporating new and innovative teaching materials when applying prescribed curricula. Making use of innovative educational activities, including on football history, can as a result be difficult. To counter this, policymakers should embrace the concept of a more open, teacher-led curricula. Allowing teachers to unleash the full potential of their unique knowledge and expertise would be an important step in using football history as a tool to foster social inclusion in classroom settings.
3. Support football clubs and associations more to better use of their own histories for social inclusion
Football clubs and football associations are often not fully aware of the potential in using their status and heritage in local communities for social inclusion activities. This includes the potential of dealing with local history from the perspective of national football or club history, including players who left their marks on society, iconic events which took place in historically relevant contexts, or reflecting prevalent historical features. This is particularly relevant as clubs and associations can use inspiring and sometimes difficult and challenging stories from their past as a foundation in their work in combatting expressions of discrimination and intolerance in their stadiums.
4. Start working together at the local level
Both the heritage and football worlds should foster cross-sectoral partnerships, including with local communities and the education sector. Just as some football bodies could be more aware of the potential that exists in their role as ‘owners’ of heritage and history, the history, museum and heritage sectors may also not be fully aware of the role football and football history can play in reaching new and varied audiences. Advancing partnerships between traditional custodians of heritage such as museums, the education sector and the world of football could similarly inspire new and engaging educational materials tackling social exclusion through the lens of football history.
5. See football history and heritage as a key popular culture (then and now)
Educators should be encouraged to combine their activities with other aspects of popular culture in order to reach broader audiences. History is a pervasive discipline and there is a story to be told about all subject matters. In the same way that sport and history can help address discrimination, policy should encourage the application of other cross-discipline projects, as they can garner the particularities of different disciplines and put them at the service of education in general. The transferability or the combining of activities in local football history for tackling exclusion with other domains of popular culture and other sports should be encouraged.
Time for action
You can help raise awareness of this potential. With your support we expect to raise the bar for a next generation of football history and heritage projects, create more space for history educators to use football’s potential and generate new conversations in the football and heritage worlds.