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The UK’s first women’s Football Club of Sanctuary

Holbeck Moor FC women’s team in Leeds have just been awarded with the Football Club of Sanctuary award.

When Holbeck Moor FC adults football teams launched two years ago there was no adults sports club in the area.

Supported by local theatre company Slung Low, a dedicated group of volunteers set out to create an inclusive club welcoming to everyone.

This week their women’s team officially became a ‘Football Club of Sanctuary’, a prestigious award run by the UK City of Sanctuary movement.

“We want to be welcoming to everyone,” explains head coach Claire Blue, “and we also recognise the additional barriers that people who are seeking asylum can face in taking part in sport.

“Add on the barriers that women face, the additional barriers mums face, and that means football can feel like quite an exclusive pursuit for many people.”

Holbeck Moor FC offers free football sessions to anyone who wants to play, and beyond that they also support players with donated kit, reimburse bus fares and even provide a creche at women’s training.

The award is extra special because it will also make them the first ever women’s football team to receive the accolade.

“We are just delighted with this” said player and club ambassador Wan Abdullah. “We have worked hard to make the club welcoming to all women, especially those in the asylum system, to find out that we are the first ever women’s team to accomplish this award makes it extra special. And we hope it will inspire others.”

“We want to move away from all the negative health and crime statistics levelled at Holbeck and focus on the positives, we have loads of different community languages spoken in the club, a huge mixture of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, abilities and ages. Working towards this award has helped us reflect on how we can keep learning and improving as a team and a club.”

Rose McCarthy, spokesperson for Leeds City of Sanctuary and panel member who assessed the award commented:

“I am delighted to say that Holbeck Moor FC are the first ever women’s side to receive the award in the whole of the UK. I had the pleasure of assessing their application and was touched to see all the efforts they have made to enable women seeking sanctuary to not only play football but to be an integral part of the club.”

“We want to spread the word about City of Sanctuary to other football teams and encourage them to work towards the award,” Claire Blue tells us.

“We know there are lots of grass-roots football clubs out there doing great work, so we would certainly encourage people to look at how to apply, and think about how they can be more inclusive. We have learnt so much from the process.”

Find out more about the Sports Club of Sanctuary programme and award here.