Sport Welcomes Refugees Project: Implementation, Results and Lessons Learned

September 3, 2019

Between January 2017 and December 2018, the eight partners implemented the ERASMUS+ sport project in the following countries: Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Portugal.

In addition, the Knowledge Centre for Sports Netherlands carried out an external project evaluation. The FINAL REPORT of the evaluators Willie Westerhof, Anita Vlasveld and Dorien Dijk provides useful insights, conclusions and recommendations about the project. The full evaluation report can be downloaded here.

The “Sport Welcomes Refugees” (SWR) project implemented the following Workstreams:

1. Building an Evidence Base

1.1. Assessment of the needs of sport educators

Focus group interviews were organised in all eight countries to assess the needs of coaches, sport staff and activists. 

1.2. Good practice in Europe and developing of quality criteria for inclusive sport projects

In November 2018 Camino published “Sport Welcomes Refugees. A Guide to Good Practice in Europe”. The 44 pages printed guide is featuring quality criteria on “How to successfully include Refugees in and through sports”.

Based on the quality criteria a self-assessment online tool for sports clubs have been designed. 

2. Training and Qualification of Sport Educators and Clubs

2.1. Training programme for sport coaches

The European training for coaches and instructors on 23-25 June 2018 was hosted by UISP in Rome (43 participants). Useful training material has been developed including PP presentations, manuals and a highly appreciated video.

The training video assists sport clubs to work with refugees. The animated video provides tips and suggestions how to interact and work with refugees in a sports club. 

2.2. Online-Platform: sports clubs opening doors for refugees and migrants

A multilingual online platform has been set up, where refugees can identify suitable sport clubs and programmes in the eight partner countries. See:

3. Respect Refugees – Campaigning and Raising Public Awareness

3.1 Refugees Welcome Events during EWoS (September 17)

In the context of the European Week of Sport all eight partners organized local events to facilitate cooperation between refugee and migrant initiatives and mainstream sport clubs and to celebrate the contribution of refugees to sport. 15 events with around 450 asylum seekers and refugees took place.

3.2 Refugee Welcome Events during FARE Action Weeks

During the FARE Action Weeks in October 2018, 20 events were facilitated by partners in seven countries. The football events were often combined with educational activities. These public events had a large reach among the target group.

4. Capacity Building of Sport Initiatives with Newly Arrived Migrants

4.1 Network Meeting: Grassroots initiatives meet with organised sport

National Network Meetings have been organised in seven countries with a total of 163 participants. National meetings provided an opportunity for presentations, good/bad examples, dialogue, and networking between national organisations and grassroots sport initiatives.

4.2 Basic Packages – Providing support for sport initiatives working with refugees

More than 50 basic packages with equipment like sport shoes, balls, bibs, shirts and cons were handed out in the partner countries to sport clubs, initiatives and refugee teams. This equipment for new migrant-led projects has helped to support the work of and with refugees practically.

5. European Networking and Policy Development

5.1 Public Meetings

In the framework of the Fundamental Rights Forum in Vienna we held a panel session on „Social Inclusion through Sports” on 26 September 2019. Speakers included the Young Muslims Austria, Rapid Vienna Special Needs Team and three members of the project team.

The Responsiball Forum on Sport and Refugees was held on 8 November in the Olympic capital Lausanne. The event gathered many sport governing bodies such as IOC, UEFA and sport federations including six Football Associations (FAs) as well as UNHCR and IOM. As an event partner SWR was represented with five project partners to share expiriences. See:

5.2. European Networking Conference (November 2018, Lisbon)

The conference “Sport Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees in a transforming Europe“ was hosted by the Portuguese FA in Oeiras (Lisbon). At the well organised event the preliminary results of the project were discussed with a broader audience, including Portuguese media.

Please see the full Conference Report here.

Future Priorities and Conclusions

In the years to come one challenge is to move away from charity and a tendency of offering patronizing “help” to refugees. Mainstream sport bodies tend to have a paternalistic approach towards the “integration” of migrants. The underlying thinking is to do something “for them” rather than with them. The evidence presented by sport actors about their success in integrating disadvantaged social groups is most often anecdotal and follow the normative idea that participation in sport is per se integrative or “good” (Coalter 2013).

The SWR project contributed to identify more sustainable forms of integration and inclusion needed in order to fully harness the potential of refugees and asylum seekers, not only as active players but also as future coaches, administrators, managers and referees.

Furthermore, the project achieved to contribute to the capacity-building of migrant sport teams, initiatives including refugees and asylum seekers in order for them to participate in regular leagues and competitions.

For sport to harness its potential to encourage equal opportunities and to foster social inclusion of newly arrived migrants, in particular migrant women and girls, there is a need that new (sport) policies are developed.

Finally, cooperation of all stakeholders was and has to be prioritized, since it’s indispensable. Local authorities, public bodies, sport governing bodies, clubs, refugee homes and migrant’s organizations need to strongly work together.

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