Support for Ukraine: Sport clubs and federations
When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the aggression was widely condemned, including by many in the sports world. The invasion led to sanctions against Russia and Belarus and many sports bodies moved to boycott Russia and Belarus from participating and competing in their events and competitions.
With the war continuing into its second month, experts suggest that more than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes, of which 4.3 million have left for neighbouring countries and 6.5 million have been displaced within Ukraine.
Many have come forward to support Ukraine and Ukrainians displaced from their homes. Here are some initiatives by sport federations, organisations and clubs to support those affected.
NB: Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and we recognise the situation is fluid and changing by the day. We welcome sport organisations supporting those affected by the war to share their efforts with sportanddev (see information at the end of the article).
The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) organised a solidarity fund for the Ukrainian Olympic Committee and sports movement in the country, and has already raised over 2 million US dollars. The fund aims to maintain the level of Ukrainian sport by providing immediate assistance to Ukrainian high-level athletes, and to cover their participation in training camps at home and abroad.
The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) are donating leftover clothes from the last two Olympic cycles to Ukrainians fleeing the war. This includes clothes produced for athletes and teams which went unused. Further, a hall at the Messe Frankfurt, which hosts one of the world’s largest trade fairs, is being used as a welcome centre for Ukrainian refugees arriving in the city.
Since the war began, many Swiss sport federations have supported the arrival of Ukrainian athletes and offered access to training facilities to ensure that they are able to continue their training. This includes Swiss cycling, which brought over 27 Ukrainian cyclists and the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation, which brought 23 ice hockey players from Ukraine into Switzerland.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) is running two initiatives, one for refugees and one for judoka, to support them as they rebuild their lives. A digital platform lists judo clubs in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries that are offering refugees judo lessons. IJF is also accepting donations to support national federations and local organisations which are working to bring joy to the Ukrainian refugee community.
FC Barcelona is implementing a series of actions to support Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes. In partnership with the Red Cross, the foundation is collecting products for babies and children – supporters can bring products to collection points at the club’s various matches.
Italian football club AS Roma has begun providing aid and assistance to Ukrainian children affected by the war, supporting the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) relief efforts through many new initiatives. The club has already delivered an initial donation of 2000 winter clothing items for new-borns, along with 1000 more items for younger children.
Athletics Ireland announced that it will offer Ukrainian citizens wishing to join athletics clubs in Ireland with free membership. Many clubs have already been offering support to those that have escaped the war, including Crusaders AC in Dublin. They welcomed 17-year-old sprinter Mark Inuwa to their club recently.
A group of nine players drove three vans of goods over 2,000 miles to the Red Cross centre in Poland, to drop off the items donated by fans for Ukrainian refugees. Goods delivered included essentials such as blankets, sleeping bags, clothing and children’s toys.
In March, Rugby Europe estimated that 3,000 active Ukrainian rugby players were either displaced or fighting in the war– hence, to support the players, the union decided to start a fundraiser, in cooperation with the Ukrainian union. Donations from the fund are being used to help women and children flee the country, book transit accommodation, buy medication, food and clothing, and cover other relocation costs. The fundraiser’s long-term goal is to eventually rebuild Ukrainian rugby.
The Premier Tennis Club in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk has been lending a helping hand to refugees arriving from different parts of the country that are more dangerous, including providing shelter for around 50 people that have been displaced by the conflict. The tennis community has come together to support their fellow country people in need with food and other belongings as well.
Italian rugby club Zebre sent two coaches and buses to rescue 49 people from Ukraine and bring them to safety in northern Italy. The 49 people were rugby players from the Ukrainian club Kyiv RC Polytechnic.
The canoeing community in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, which are hosting many Ukrainian refugees, have set up several activities and initiatives to provide athletes with a safe and supportive environment, and where they can be reunited with their families.
The Polish canoeing community has been providing housing, food and training facilities for many displaced athletes. Many canoers have also been relocated to Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Further, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) has set up a GoFundMe account to raise funds and make payments more easily.
In coordination with the ICF, World Rowing has also been working to relocate Ukrainian Para rowing and canoe/kayak teams.
In coordination with various national federations across Europe, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) is working to host training camps and equipment to the Ukrainian biathlon community.
UIPM is providing the Ukrainian junior team of more than 20 athletes with funding for sports equipment and uniforms. It is also supported Ukrainian athletes to travel to participate in the UIPM 2022 Pentathlon World Cup in Cairo, which took place in March.
Fortnite, the online video game, has raised 144 million US dollars for relief efforts in Ukraine. Epic Games, along with Microsoft, announced that for a two-week period it would donate all proceeds from the game to humanitarian efforts in the country. The money raised will go to aid groups such as Direct Relief, UNHCR, UN Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme.
Arena Lviv, a stadium which has previously hosted football matches in the Champions League and Euro 2012, is now sheltering hundreds of Ukrainians that have been internally displaced due to the war.
Before being a refugee shelter, it was a registration and transit point to redirect displaced people. However, due to the large flow of displaced people fleeing parts of eastern Ukraine, volunteers, club employees and local authorities worked to transform the stadium into a hostel, with a capacity of 500 people.
In March, the Worcester Warriors converted their Sixfields Stadium into a donation point for essential items for refugees fleeing Ukraine. Items donated were then transported to Poland and Ukraine. The club worked in conjunction with Caritas International for this initiative.
The Bathgate Thistle Community Football Club have offered Ukrainian refugees coming into the area with free football sessions. The club recognises the potential that they have in supporting newcomers with the existing West Lothian community, and the power of sport in allowing people to have fun, integrate and work together.
While Budapest was earlier using train stations as a venue to register and relocate Ukrainian refugees, it has now converted the Olympic Centre’s B Hall into a transit shelter, where refugees can be registered, receive medical help and get immigration assistance. The Hungarian Athletic Federation offered the hall to provide care for refugees.
NB: We recognise the distinction between ‘sport for development’ actors, ‘sports clubs and federations’ and ‘sportspersons’ is not always clear and there are significant overlaps – we have chosen this division (even if artificial) simply to streamline the range of initiatives. We also recognise that there are many more types of actors/organisations providing support.