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From racial exclusions to new inclusions: Black and minority ethnic participation in football clubs in the East Midlands of England

This article reports on survey and interview data from a two-phase study examining the shape and scope of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) participation in amateur football clubs in Leicestershire in the East Midlands of England. Survey results identified strongly differentiated patterns of participation and a concentration of BME (male) players, coaches and management committee members at a small number of clubs in the city of Leicester. Interview data contextualized the socio-historical development and ongoing reality of these BME clubs as a consequence of — and as active resistance to — racisms and exclusions within pre-existing and homogeneously White local football networks. BME clubs also had distinct social, cultural and religious attachments and had historically operated as symbolic and practical sites of community mobilization and cultural identity production for specific BME communities. Survey and interview data indicated that BME clubs and newer ‘multi-ethnic’ clubs increasingly featured a strong focus on the provision of valuable participation opportunities to younger players from a range of culturally and religiously diverse backgrounds and from communities experiencing disproportionate levels of social and economic deprivation. The article concludes by examining the role of BME clubs and newer ‘multi-ethnic’ clubs as facilitators of new inclusions and positive multicultural leisure spaces for young footballers within the context of the changing local cultural landscape of Leicester and with reference to wider debates around racial integration and multiculturalism in late modern Britain.