UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign promoting diversity, inclusion and accessibility in football aims to increase public awareness of the ways in which football can be played and enjoyed, and underlines football’s capacity as a powerful unifying social force.
The campaign is uniting football’s stellar names and grassroots players as it strives to put across the clear message that the game is open to all – irrespective of, for example, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.
#EqualGame aims to increase public awareness of the ways in which football can be played and enjoyed, and underlines football’s capacity as a powerful unifying social force.
Since its launch in 2017, it has broadened the spectrum of UEFA’s long-standing overall Respect activities, which have promoted areas such as peace and reconciliation, football for all, and the fight against discrimination, racism and violence.
The campaign was officially unveiled in Monaco in August 2017, at a ceremony attended by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin and Manchester United’s French star Paul Pogba, and with superstars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Ada Hegerberg giving their backing.
Subsequently, #EqualGame has successfully made its mark in promoting the key ethos that football is a game that is absolutely equal for all – removing any barrier that might prevent people from joining and enjoying the sport.
#EqualGame has come to life through video productions, the written word and photos across UEFA’s communication channels. A dedicated campaign website contains a wealth of content, also available through UEFA.com, and different social media platforms are bringing the campaign into sharp focus in a modern, contemporary fashion.
UEFA’s official magazine UEFA Direct has featured regular stories on the fantastic people throughout the continent who make football what it is. A bespoke TV spot broadcast around UEFA’s major competitions is also giving broad exposure to the #EqualGame message.
#EqualGame has brought forth compelling and inspiring stories about grassroots stars who make football such a wonderful game – while a number of key events this year have highlighted the campaign’s message – with UEFA’s two major club competition finals in May providing a perfect high-profile focal point.
At the UEFA Champions League final in Kyiv in May, the Champions Festival hosted Football for Social Inclusion matches, organised under the #EqualGame/Respect banner. The matches featured amputee, cerebral palsy and Special Olympics football, next to football for children from conflict areas – emphasising that although people are different, everyone can find common ground in their love of the game.
Elite and grassroots stars unite for #EqualGame in Lyon
Also in May, #EqualGame brought top stars and grassroots players together at the UEFA Europa League Village ahead of the competition’s final in Lyon. Grassroots stars who have highlighted the campaign were joined in a special match by Portuguese legend Luís Figo, former Olympique Lyonnais and Barcelona favourite Éric Abidal, and Olympique Lyonnais women’s stars Ada Hegerberg and Shanice van de Sanden.
Another major highlight was the Fare network’s #FootballPeople action weeks in October, when Europe’s premium competitions served as an ideal platform to transmit the message that racism, discrimination and intolerance must be eradicated from the game.
A total of 94 matches in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Women’s Champions League and UEFA Nations League were the setting for #EqualGame-related activities in support of the action weeks.
Players, clubs and national teams taking part in the four competitions used their own communication platforms to raise awareness. Teams lined up for mixed photos with the match referees, while videos were played on giant screens in Europe’s stadiums. The hashtag for the #EqualGame campaign was prominent, and stadium announcements transmitted key messages to thousands of fans. Children wearing #EqualGame t-shirts were present in stadiums to help encourage people to embrace the message that discrimination must be a thing of the past.
In addition, UEFA unveiled its inaugural #EqualGame award in August this year. The award aims to recognise a player who has acted as a role model in promoting diversity, inclusion and accessibility in European football.
Georgian national team player Guram Kashia was the first recipient for taking a courageous public stand for equality. Whilst playing for Dutch top-division outfit SBV Vitesse last season, the central defender joined other team captains at domestic matches in the Netherlands in wearing a rainbow armband, signifying support for the LGBT community.
Kashia’s gesture was greeted with an extremely negative and hostile response in certain quarters in his native Georgia. There were even calls for him to renounce playing for the national team. Nevertheless, he was defiant in the face of the abuse and threats he received, insisting he had no regrets about wearing the armband and underlining his full support for diversity and inclusion.
#EqualGame is about people – it is giving football lovers across Europe the opportunity to express just what the game means to them. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin is crystal clear in emphasising #EqualGame’s crucial vision: “It is vitally important that UEFA makes football accessible for everyone,” he said, “and, through the power of sport, becomes a global leader to fight for social equality…”