A training tool to integrate women and girls in football clubs
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The FIRE project is designing a new module in their MOOC, to help amateur clubs design schemes specifically for refugee, asylum seeker and migrant women.

Sport and Citizenship has always considered the question of integrating refugees, asylum seekers and migrants into European society and its component parts to be crucial. Faced with the growing numbers of displaced persons, our experience and that of our many partners have shown that sport can provide responses that are concrete, credible and useful.

The first of these responses was the FIRE project, funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Sport programme, launched in January 2018. Within this framework, the consortium of 8 partners (Sport and Citizenship as coordinator, the Belgian, Romanian and Scottish national football federations, the La Liga Foundation, the Fondation pour la Liberté, ESSCA Business School and the FARE network) concentrated its efforts on producing a MOOC aimed at amateur clubs to help them design schemes for integrating refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in their structures.

The first feedback from users of this tool has been positive, and we are now looking at the specific question of including women and girls in these schemes. In one study carried out in the FIRE project, the evidence was clear. Schemes for integrating refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in general find it more difficult to get women and girls to take part, for various reasons:

  • Reticence stemming from the new arrivals’ cultural background
  • Lack of schemes dedicated specifically to girls and women
  • Lack of suitable facilities (including changing rooms) and regular access to them
  • Lack of female trainers
  • Inappropriate training times
  • Child-care responsibilities and thus lack of availability

These first elements, the result of empirical evidence rather than a serious study, encouraged the development of a follow-up to the FIRE project, called FIRE+. The name is no accident, because our aim is indeed to go further and get more people involved, more clubs and sport organisations, and to be more inclusive, particularly for girls and women.

On this basis, a new training module in the MOOC is being developed, specially dedicated to creating schemes for the inclusion of women and girls. The content of the training to be given should not be seen as unique and unchangeable, a take-it-or-leave-it block of knowledge. By leaving the last word with experts on the ground and schemes already in existence, and with researchers specifically interested in this question, the aim is to give sport organisations the keys to putting in place programmes for inclusion for women, adapted to their local situation, nationality and cultural background.

It is a fact that one of the main dangers in devising solutions for integration is the risk of directing local actors towards unique responses, which may be far removed from the reality that both the members of sport organisations and the refugees encounter on a daily basis. What did seem necessary was to provide these people with the keys to help them to do what they are already doing or what they already want to do. We are therefore seeking to give them the knowledge, the prerequisites, the main pieces of information, existing obstacles and a wide range of good practice, where they can find the inspiration to implement their own solution.

When we started working on this question, we wanted to show that sport could provide concrete, credible and useful responses to the challenge of integrating asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, and the many groups within these categories. However, our experience has also shown us that sport alone cannot provide a miraculous solution and that it needs to be part of a wider response. Sport is one link in the chain, and we, as actors in the sport sector, must make our voice heard to ensure that sport is given the place it deserves in the overall approach to the integration of displaced persons.


Rodolphe Doité is Head of European Affairs for Sport and Citizenship Think tank. He is in charge of the implementation of the FIRE+ project, dedicated to the inclusion of refugees through football, until June 2023.

sportanddev published this content as part of our partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. For more information on using sport in work with refugees please visit the UNHCR website.


United Kingdom
Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
5 - Gender equality
Target Group
Girls and women

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