Interview with FAI Intercultural Officer

The FAI is Ireland’s first sporting authority to employ a full-time office to engage the new communities in Ireland. Representing 10% of the workforce and numbering 400,000 in total, foreign nationals living in Ireland represent a great opportunity for the sport to grow.The FAI have also recognised the role sport has as an opportunity for intercultural activity.The Red Card spoke with Des Tomlinson about his new role as National Intercultural Co-ordinator for the FAI.Where did you work before taking up your current position with the FAI? I worked for a large West London Mental Health Trust overseeing its centre for sport and exercise. The role involved managing a team of 10 sports coaches to provide sports/exercise opportunities to people with mental health problem to engage in sports and overcome stigma. What interested you about the post of intercultural co-ordinator?The role interests me from both a professional and personal perspective; I hold FA Coaching Awards as well as being a member of the Football Association Coaches Association, from my experience as a coach and a player of the games I understand both the frustrations that racism can bring and the opportunities and benefits that an inclusive sporting environment can create. From a personal standpoint I have two small children who I hope will grow up to enjoy and value sport and participate in football in a discrimination free environment.What do you see as the biggest challenge of the post?There are a number of challenges all with their own importance; I think the overriding challenge is to create an inclusive environment within football so that people can feel comfortable to participate; the spin off from this is that we can increase participation levels from Minority Ethnic Groups. Allied to this the need to put in place some proactive, preventative measures to challenge and remove racism from football.What would you consider success will be and how is it measured?More players, coaches, supporters, officials, refs and volunteers from minority ethnic groups. Implementation the UEFA 10 point plan within all Eircom league clubs, local clubs and a general environment in Irish football that supports diversity.I hope to measure success by firstly establishing some bench marks around participation, with regards to the UEFA 10 point plan.I would anticipate that clubs, leagues and other affiliates will reflect their commitment to the plan by setting this out in their constitutions and by establishing an equality policy which is routinely monitored.What differences do you consider in addressing intercultual activities in Ireland as compared to Britain?Cultural diversity on the scale seen over the last 10 yrs is new to Ireland; this presents the real opportunity to plan for diversity, and integration to be proactive as appose to reactive.What team do you support in UK and in the Eircom League?In the UK, for my sins I support Spurs. I suppose in Ireland, not necessarily based on play but I would have to say geographically Galway United.What are you doing in the job now?Networking and to establish partnerships with various agencies both statutory and non statutory, I anticipate that some of these will act as good resource for the upcoming consultation process that will inform the strategic plan for the FAI.I am also working with specific NGO’s to support their work where possible. Currently I have started the process of evaluating training needs within the FAI with regards to anti racism training and will be putting a training strategy together either as part of the consultation process or separately. I anticipate that over the next few months that I will be spending a good deal of time working with clubs to help them implement the 10 point plan.What do you think about Show Racism the Red Card?SRTRC has huge potential both in terms as an organization that seeks to raise people’s awareness of the issue, as well as acting as a barometer of racism within sport. Allied to its promotional/awareness raising work is its potential to influence the attitudes and beliefs of both young and old, in this regard its work to construct an educational DVD programme, perhaps sets it apart from mere promotion and positions it as educational resource.

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