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World Refugee Day 2022: European football’s widespread support

UEFA is funding a new series of national association refugee support projects and staging a new European tournament for refugees, the UNITY EURO Cup, alongside UNHCR.

World Refugee Day

UEFA is proud to work alongside UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, to use the power of football to build a better future for refugees and displaced people in Europe.

Refugee support is one of UEFA’s key human rights policies in our new sustainability strategy, Strength Through Unity, and this is why last year, we signed a cooperation protocol with UNHCR, supporting refugee access to sport and enhancing social inclusion.

Action from the UNHCR refugee match at the UEFA Champions League fan festival in Paris
Action from the UNHCR refugee match at the UEFA Champions League fan festival in ParisUEFA via Getty Images

Since 2017, UEFA has also operated the Football and Refugee Grant Scheme, which provides funding for projects across Europe, with 11 national association programmes today each receiving financial support to invest in their work with refugees.

In 2022, for the first time, we are also delighted to be hosting a new tournament with eight national association teams at our HQ in Nyon, Switzerland, competing for the inaugural UNITY EURO Cup.

Michele Uva, Football and Social Responsibility Director

"Today, on World Refugee Day, UEFA honours the strength and courage of refugees together with UNHCR. Our common goal is to help refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people to remain physically and mentally healthy and become part of their host community through the power of football.

"We have increased UEFA’s investments in refugee support by 40%, and warmly congratulate the National Associations among the 11 winners and eight special mentions of our Refugee Grant Scheme. We thank UNHCR for the continued partnership and look forward to jointly welcoming the teams to the UNITY EURO Cup on 29 June."

UEFA’s sustainability strategy and support for human rights and refugees

Football and Refugee Grant Scheme winners

A refugee playing football in Tubize, Belgium
A refugee playing football in Tubize, BelgiumPhoto News

Today, UEFA announced the 11 winners of the 2021/22 Football and Refugee Grant scheme, which provides funding for refugee-related projects organised and operated by European football associations.

This season, European football’s governing body received 23 applications from member associations, with a wide range of proposals offering playing opportunities, vocational training, support to refugees’ health and well-being, access to labour market and projects focused specifically on female refugees and displaced people.

Who are the Refugee and Grant Scheme winners?

Armenia - The Football Federation of Armenia (FFA)
The FFA's "Play together for integration" explores football’s unique added value to humanitarian aid. It aims to integrate all refugees, including family members who do not play, through family football events involving local communities. The project also assists with career-building in football, offering education and employment opportunities for already qualified coaches/referees from the refugee community.

Belgium - The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA)
"Everyone on the field 2.0" builds upon the RBFA's existing programme for refugees, creating opportunities in many different roles, such as players, stewards, volunteers, coaches and referees. Refugees will also be an integral part of the social initiatives linked to the RBFA's innovative "Red Court" concept. The 40 Red Courts are mini-pitches that can be found across Belgium, with strong links to local community clubs.

Croatia - The Croatian Football Federation (HNS)
Based on learnings from previous refugee programmes, the HNS' "New Neighbours" initiative addresses barriers for displaced people to access football, providing equipment and covering club subscription fees. In addition, to accelerate the inclusion of young refugees in Croatian society, after-school programmes for children playing football are offered, also helping them with homework and Croatian language/culture.

England - The Football Association (FA)
The FA's "Women's Football Leadership Programme" offers bespoke leadership training for female refugees who aspire to be football leaders of women and girls’ football. This programme aligns with the The FA's wider Women’s Football Strategy and its Football For All focus, contributing to its efforts to build up a motivated, diverse range of local leaders in their communities.

Finland - The Football Association of Finland (SPL)
The SPL's "Football Belongs to Everyone" project involves a wide variety of stakeholders, from reception centres, clubs and the UNHCR to the Finish Migration Services, to enrich refugees' lives through football activities. As a reaction to the war in Ukraine, the Finnish FA also plans to provide free access to club football for thousands of Ukrainian refugee children.

Iceland - The Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ)
The KSÍ's "Welcome to the neighbourhood - Find your passion in Football!" concept addresses participation barriers for refugees in football and society. The main focus is on children, but involvement of their parents to enhance the inclusion process is also a key element. The Icelandic FA, football clubs and a cultural mediator will provide continued, close personal support to each family interested in football activities.

Italy - The Italian Football Federation (FIGC)
The FIGC's "Together for Herat - Empowering through football" programme takes a holistic approach to supporting female refugees from Afghanistan, their coaches and families. Beyond football activities, the programme also seeks to empower its beneficiaries by providing them with access to mobility and tools enabling them to take up academic programmes and professional education.

Malta - The Malta Football Association (MFA)
The MFA's "Pass the Ball" concept will pair female refugee players with local female football players in a unique mentorship programme. It also explores innovative ways to help female refugees learn the language and culture, and find employment in football. Through its community approach, the project also seeks to involve the refugee women's family members, going beyond those who play football.

Moldova - The Football Association of Moldova (FMF)
In addition to organised football tournaments for children and adults, the FMF's proposal also takes a holistic approach to assisting refugees’ social inclusion. Vocational training and help with university tuition fees are planned, while particularly talented refugee children will receive a bursary, enabling them to attend a football academy to further develop their footballing skills.

Northern Ireland - The Irish Football Association (IFA)
In partnership with many different stakeholders and expert organisations, the IFA's "Welcome Through Football" refugee empowerment project is built on numerous pillars, including playing opportunities, a volunteering programme for women, access to coach education, countering racism and discrimination, involvement of locals and other migrant populations and creating an inclusive club network.

Romania - The Romanian Football Federation (FRF)
"Football 4 Refugees 2.0" builds on the FRF's long-standing experience with helping refugees. The main goal is to help them become an integral part of society by providing language classes and job fairs linked to football activities. The programme has a strong focus on women, with the creation of two new women's teams planned. In close cooperation with UNHCR, football activities for Ukrainian refugees at six national centres for refugees and three locations made available by the Ministry of Sport, complete the project.

Special mentions also go to the Albanian Football Federation, the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan, the Football Association of the Czech Republic, the Danish Football Association, the Estonian Football Association, the Latvian Football Federation, the Football Association of Ireland and the Scottish Football Association.

The UNITY EURO Cup

The UNITY EURO Cup trophy at Colovray Stadium in Nyon, Switzerland
The UNITY EURO Cup trophy at Colovray Stadium in Nyon, Switzerland

On Wednesday 29 June, mixed refugee teams from across Europe will come together for a friendly competition to demonstrate and celebrate football’s power to strengthen ties between host communities and displaced people, breaking down barriers and creating a spirit of inclusion.

Teams from Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Malta, the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland will be accompanied by illustrious ambassadors from the footballing world, with local children and families able to watch the action at the Colovray Stadium in Nyon.

Each team will be composed of 70 per cent refugees and 30 per cent non-refugee players, advocating for how football can strengthen ties between host communities and refugees.

Who are the tournament ambassadors?

 Austria – Marc Janko (ex-international player)
Belgium – Mbo Mpenza (ex-international player)
France – Laura Georges (ex-international player)
Germany – to be confirmed
Italy – Demetrio Albertini (ex-international player)
Malta – Christian Damiano (ex-international player)
Republic of Ireland – Stephen Kenny (men’s national team coach)
Switzerland – Murat Yakin (men’s national team coach)

 The action will kick off from 14:00 CET on the day, with UEFA Referees’ Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti, who took charge of the EURO 2008 final, set to officiate the tournament’s final.

The draw for the tournament, which is a concrete outcome of the UNHCR-UEFA partnership agreement signed last year, took place earlier today. Football legends Nadine Kessler and Zvonimir Boban featured in a special live broadcast to the participating teams.

How the UEFA Foundation is supporting Ukrainian refugees