Many clubs are located in diverse areas, yet struggle to get black and ethnic minority supporters into their grounds. We spoke to Bik Singh from Blues 4 All about what their group has been doing to help the club tap into the local asian community...
Blues 4 All were established just over two years ago and since then have been receiving help from the Fans for Diversity campaign to help get more black and ethnic minority fans along to St Andrew’s.
The all-inclusive group formed after officials from Birmingham City met with black, asian and ethnic minority fans to look at the lack of diversity in their stands.
“The club met with fans and they were honest asking questions like ‘why aren’t more coming to the match?’, ‘what can we do?’,” says Bik Singh, Blues 4 All club secretary.
“St Andrew’s is in Small Heath, a majority ethnic area but unfortunately that isn’t reflected in the stands and the club really wants to address that.
“It was refreshing to see the club being proactive and we’ve developed a really positive relationship with them.”
Fans for Diversity met with Bik and his dad Micky, who established Blues 4 All along with the other founding committee members back in May 2016. Shortly thereafter, FSF diversity & campaigns manager Anwar Uddin helped Blues 4 All get off the ground.
“Anwar came up to Birmingham and was a huge help in getting us set up,” Bik said. “He gave us a lot of advice.
“Fans for Diversity has been instrumental - we were able to get the website done, a new flag and get on social media. That’s given us something we can point people to and helped build our profile.”
Since then Blues 4 All have led a number of initiatives and match-day activities to provide a stepping-stone for potential fans to attend live games. A major challenge for the group, as with other clubs across the country, has been addressing misconceptions about attending football amongst the asian community.
“We’ve been linking up with community and faith groups to promote trips to St Andrew’s to them, encouraging as many to try it out as possible.
“One older spectator from the Sikh community said he was amazed at how many women and children go to games now.
“He was saying ‘I didn’t get any dirty looks, no silly jokes, or ignorant comments’. It’s totally transformed since he last experienced football in the seventies.
“That’s what we’re doing - removing that stigma, the fear, addressing those barriers. It’s really good to see people come along for their first match and get swept up by it.”
Blues 4 All isn’t just asian fans helping the asian community, they’re also looking to build bridges further.
“We wanted it to be inclusive as we have a really mixed committee - young, old, asian, black and white supporters,” Bik says. “So we decided against branding it as something like ‘Punjabi Blues’ or ‘Desi Blues’ and went with Blues 4 All to portray that.
“And linking up with other supporter clubs, like the Blues Trust, has been really useful for us as they originally introduced us to the FSF.
“We’ve got so much match-going experience, so much knowledge built up. We’re ideal for explaining the ground layout, where the away fans go, songs and what some of the chants are!
“We’ve even helped people get along to their first away games, which is a huge step for some. We’re like tour guides - we’re real fans so who better to introduce people to the match?”
With the 30,000-seater St Andrew’s stadium only attracting crowds of around 20-21,000 in recent seasons the group believes tapping into the surrounding black and ethnic minority communities is vital to the future health of the match-going crowd.
“We see a lot of the youngsters supporting Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool which is a shame because they’ll never get to see those teams,” Bik says. “We’re showing them that there is a great alternative on the doorstep, that they can go and see their local side.
“Maybe they’ll be more interested when we get back to the Premier League!”
Blues 4 All’s work was recognised by the FSF when they were shortlisted for the inaugural ‘Fans for Diversity Award’ back in December at the FSF awards following an incredibly productive first year. Bik hopes the group can continue its good work.
Bik says: “We just want the group to grow and get as many people along to St Andrew’s as we can.
“We’d love more people who share our passion to get involved, who want to volunteer and ultimately form a close connection with fans, the club and our city."
Fans for Diversity is a joint campaign run with Kick It Out, football's anti-discrimination group. Find out more about the campaign here.