The Scottish FA today hosted the first ever More Than a Game – Football Including Refugees In Europe (FIRE) conference, designed to help use football to empower social inclusion amongst refugees across Scotland.

The conference aimed to help foster intercultural openness in local football clubs and bodies, across Europe, and further seek to empower, enable and support local football organisations to work with refugees and asylum-seekers through football.

FIRE is a two-year project funded by Erasmus+ the partnership includes the Scottish FA along with the Royal Belgian FA, La Liga the Romanian FA, Sport & Citizenship Think Tank, ESSCA School of Management, Fundacja Dla Wolnosci and Fare Network.

The conference at Hampden Park comes during UEFA Grassroots Week – the annual Europe-wide celebration of all grassroots football – and was attended by a number of partners including Freedom From Torture, the Scottish Parliament and Glasgow City Council.

This event is the first of four such conferences to be held across Europe. The project will also see the creation of an educational resource which will be widely available as well as funding to support four pilot interventions across Europe.

The Scottish FA are committed to helping refugees in Scotland integrate into society through football and are making a difference in Glasgow through their funding of the Jimmy Johnstone Academy who train at Cathkin Park.

The association holds the Advanced Standard of the Equality Framework of Sport in Scotland and are the only football association in Britain to hold the prestigious accolade, having been awarded it in early 2019.

David McArdle, Diversity and Inclusion Manager said: “As an association it is our job to inspire our member clubs to understand their roles in community and society, by supporting refugees.

“We passionately take the view that anyone coming to the country is welcome to play football and we use the clubs as a support mechanism for families.

“Football in Scotland has shown it can change and improve the lives of those involved by offering fun, friendship and socialisation.

“Being part of FIRE is a great chance for the Scottish FA to continue the drive to improve opportunities for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Scotland.”

Fiona Crombie, Clinical Services Manager at Freedom from Torture in Scotland said: “We’re delighted to be working with the Scottish FA on this exciting initiative.

Football is a universal language, it breaks down barriers and it brings people together.

For torture survivors who are refugees to this country, playing football can be instrumental in helping them heal and recover.

It’s inspiring to see the Scottish FA leading the way in making asylum seekers and refugees feel welcome in Scotland.”