Wednesday 26 February 2014
The Barclays Premier League fixture between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday marked the west London club's inaugral Game for Equality, a new campaign promoting equality in football and communities.
The Game for Equality was designed by Chelsea's Building Bridges programme in partnership with Kick It Out, Football v Homophobia, the Barclays Premier League and the Football Association, as part of a joint stand against all forms of discrimination in football.
"All sorts of discrimination cannot be tolerated. We must all be treated equally"
Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard featured on the matchday programme cover in the Building Bridges shirt, which was also worn by Blues first-team players during the warm-up. The logo, an image of four figures holding hands, also appeared on the Chelsea matchday shirt for the first time during Saturday's match.
A video highlighting the campaign was played around Stamford Bridge before the match.
"It is important we - the players - speak up against discrimination because we are seen on TV, we are followed by many people and we are idols to some," Willian, the Chelsea midfielder, told chelseafc.com. "Therefore we must show we do not agree with any form of discrimination and we need to pass this message on to all the people who support us."
Chelsea coach Eddie Newton, who works with the club's youth team, knows footballers who stopped playing the sport due to discrimination. The former Blues midfielder called for the power of football to be used to set an example to younger players by promoting equality throughout the sport.
"Football is the biggest game in the world and we have a responsibility to set an example to children"
"Football is the biggest game in the world and we have a responsibility to set an example to children and across the board," Newton told Chelsea's website. "I have seen different issues down the years, from being a young apprentice. I have had good friends who have been abused and we had to be a lot stronger than some of the players coming through now have to be."
The Game for Equality has followed other anti-discrimination initiatives in English football this year, including Football v Homophobia's "Football for Everyone" campaign which ran in February. Newton is confident these campaigns are having a positive effect but is calling for more action.
"There has been a big push against discrimination from different organisations and I will say that England is probably taking the lead and has been very proactive," he said. "We have changed our game drastically since the 1970s and the 1980s and stadiums are far better places to go.
"They are family-orientated and we see a lot more diverse culture within stadiums now so there has been a fantastic shift but we can't rest on our laurels and think we have done the job, because I don't think the job will ever be done."