Irish football makes a statement with #EqualGame campaign

Support for UEFA's diversity and inclusion project stretches across international and domestic football.

Dillon Sheridan, Eimear O'Sullivan & Neil Hoey
Dillon Sheridan, Eimear O'Sullivan & Neil Hoey ©Sportsfile

The tagline says it all: 'Everyone should be able to enjoy football'. There is no simpler message to deliver and that is why UEFA's #EqualGame campaign was so easy for the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to endorse.

Terrific work is being done all across the Republic of Ireland to grow the beautiful game and make it more accessible to everyone – from young players starting out through to grandparents giving walking football a go. That inclusive spirit is something that the FAI has always promoted but it has become ever more apparent how important it is to actively ensure that everyone (no matter their level) can take part.

FAI chief executive and UEFA Executive Committee member John Delaney was proud to support the initiative, which has also been embraced by players, coaches, administrators and volunteers. "It is hugely important that we continue to work hard to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy football, at all levels," he said. "This is something that the FAI prides itself on and it is fantastic to see UEFA roll out such a worthwhile campaign.

"At grassroots level, we see people's lives being affected in a positive way by football every day and that is something we must continue to build on. Football should be accessible to everyone. This message of inclusion is crucial to the development of the game."

Ireland – and the rest of the world – celebrated St Patrick's Day on 17 March. And the FAI seized the opportunity - a national holiday in Ireland - to promote the growing link between grassroots and international football through a short video that reached over 75,000 people.

The video featured an array of players representing the many facets of the game, including Karen Duggan (Republic of Ireland women's team), Ross Kenny (Wexford FC, SSE Airtricity League), Pearl Slattery (Shelbourne Ladies FC, Continental Tyres Women's National League), Neil Hoey (Ireland amputee team), Eimear O'Sullivan (Ireland powerchair team) and Dillon Sheridan (Ireland cerebral palsy team).

The FAI does a lot of work in communities across Ireland through its regional development officers (of whom there is at least one in every county), schools and third level department, intercultural department, coach education department, referees department, women's football department, club development department, and Football for All department. However, the #EqualGame campaign has helped the association to shine an even brighter spotlight on the inclusive nature of football and on how the game can change people's lives for the better.

A great many players have been eager to get involved. At international level, Republic of Ireland men's senior team captain Seamus Coleman and defender Derrick Williams backed the campaign by wearing the #EqualGame T-shirt, while Under-21 midfielder Josh Cullen and U18 defender Calum Doyle both wore the special #EqualGame captain's armband during international friendlies.

At club level, Alan Wall (Shamrock Rovers amputee team), Saoirse Noonan (Cork City Women's FC) and Danny Kane (Cork City FC) also posed for photos in the #EqualGame T-shirt, and many more initiatives are being planned with players and clubs at all levels.

This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct 177