A Premier League team was led onto the pitch by women for the first time as Safer Poole Partnership and AFC Bournemouth came together in support of Women’s Aid’s Football United Against Domestic Violence campaign.
Staff and players at 4 December’s match against Liverpool FC pledged their support, which was the first official Football United match to take place in the UK.
On the pitch, players and Cherry Bear warmed up wearing AFCB shirts with branding designed specifically for the match, after which players were led from the tunnel by members of the Safer Poole team, charity ambassador Charlie Webster and domestic violence survivors carrying the campaign flag. The flag was walked round the pitch again at half time following a speech to the crowd by Charlie Webster, with a fantastic reception from both home and away fans.
Charlie Webster commented: “I was delighted to come along to the first ever Football United game. Football has proved time and again that it can be such a positive force for change, and I hope that we have helped raise awareness amongst fans and players here at AFC Bournemouth. It was an honour to join Safer Poole and the survivors on the pitch.”
One of the survivors helping to carry the campaign flag around the Vitality Stadium was 24 year old Sam. Sam has been working with the Safer Poole team for the past four years following an abusive relationship, and was proud to help raise awareness amongst the football community. Sam said: “I was so young when I got involved with my ex-partner; I didn’t understand that violence happened in relationships. After receiving help myself I knew that I wanted to help others who are in the same position that I was in, especially young people who might not be aware of what a normal relationship might look like.”
AFCB Chairman Jeff Mostyn also did his bit to promote the campaign, signing the pledge board with Charlie and swapping his Football United shirt with Andrew Parkinson, Director of Operations at Liverpool FC.
Jeff Mostyn, Chairman of AFC Bournemouth, said: “We were very proud to support this worthy campaign. We wouldn’t tolerate violence on the pitch, and through this campaign we hope to show that we won’t tolerate it anywhere else. I hope that our fans left today not only delighted with our win over Liverpool, but also with a new awareness of what some people go through in their relationships, and a determination to help put a stop to it.”
Hundreds of Cherries fans also posed for pictures in the Safer Poole photobooth, helping raise further awareness throughout the day.
Research has shown that reports of increases in domestic violence after some football matches shows that it can increase by around 30%. Football United Against Domestic Violence is a campaign by Women’s Aid, working with national footballing bodies, sports media, football clubs, the police, players and fans to send a clear message that domestic violence is always unacceptable. Find out more at https://www.womensaid.org.uk/