Meet the club that’s putting inclusivity and accessibility into practise

BY MOLLY SMITH, IMAGE BY LUCIEN PHOENIX

Brockwell United Football Club (BUFC) or “The Swans” is a not-for-profit community football club based in Brixton, London. It’s a place for women, non-binary and genderqueer people of all abilities. BUFC’s mission is to empower their players and create a safe space to learn and develop skills as well as make friends and become part of their thriving community. 

They do this by abandoning some of the widely accepted norms that exist within football clubs, to make sure the club is accessible to everyone. I spoke to Dean from BUFC about their experience at the club: “I just had so much fun. It was really beginner friendly. Everyone was so nice which you can’t necessarily always take for granted when you’re meeting a bunch of strangers.”

“We don’t just have that line on our Instagram and our website saying, ‘non-binary players, welcome’, we genuinely put that into practice. At the beginning of every training session, we will stand in a circle, we introduce ourselves, we say our pronouns, which is really important for people to show that it’s not the norm that everyone identifies as a woman or uses she/her pronouns. We try to always make sure we’re using inclusive language, not using she/her immediately. We like playing tournaments, that donate money to LGBT charities and foundations. On the back of our new football kit, we’ve got the progress flag that shows inclusion of black and brown members of the LGBT community. It’s a lot more than just saying that we are inclusive, which is important – we actually have to put it into practice.”

BUFC have a unique approach to social media, that is focused on community and friendship, rather than the match scores. This is to further their mission of making football an inclusive sport and welcoming people with all different skill levels to the pitch. 

“We are conscious about what we put on Instagram, we don’t tend to say what our scores are after games. Our posts are just about us having fun and getting together with other teams. It sounds cheesy, but that genuinely is our focus as a team. We’re not using Instagram to show that we’re amazing at playing football and winning games.”

The club implemented a “Removing Barriers to Entry” commitment, to encourage more women and non-binary people to play football. They never run trials or inductions based on ability – the club believes anyone can be, and has the right to be, a football player. By removing winning as a focus, BUFC can welcome people whose lives might not suit the typical structure of a football club.

“The alternative would be, demanding the people who play, turn up to the practice earlier in the week, demanding that everyone sticks to a fitness regimen, demanding that new players need to come to five practices before they can play a match. There are ways to be top of the league and to be winning every single game but like you said, that’s closing doors to people who just have different requirements in terms of turning up. We have players who have children and who are carers; demanding that people are available on the same night, every week, it’s not accessible to everyone. It excludes people with kids. It excludes people who might suffer with mental health problems and who are not necessarily going to feel up to it every Monday. So we want to keep as many doors open and honestly, I think we’re all the better as a club because of it.”

BUFC recently got a new kit, designed by Donatella Esposito who said: “The Swans’ focus on participation in football for women and non-binary people made me rediscover the sport and drove me to create images of movement, positivity and togetherness. With minimal use of bold lines and colours, we wanted to capture the joy within the act of playing football. The crowds on the sleeve represent the celebration of grassroots football and the supportive community and fans which comes with it.” 

The colour palette of the kit was inspired by the swans that reside in Brockwell Park, but the reason behind having a kit with black shorts and a white top, is so anyone could play as part of the team in any white t-shirt without committing to the full kit. This is again, to make sure the team is accessible to as many people as possible. 

BUFC exemplify how with a little effort, football can begin to open doors to people who have historically been excluded from the game.

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