FIRE’s final conference

Wednesday 30 June 2021

FIRE’s final conference

On the 3rd of June, Sport and Citizenship Think Tank organized the final conference of the Football Including Refugees through Football (FIRE) project, funded under the Sport Chapter of the Erasmus+ Programme.


The programme

Migration has become a highly sensitive topic across the European continent. While migration has been brought under the spotlight in recent years, the social inclusion of refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers has unfortunately not attracted as much public interest. Founded on the belief that sport is a universal language that can harness and enable social progress, the FIRE project strives to foster local interlocutor openness through football. The project intends to provide grassroots football organizations with the tools and insights to implement their own social inclusion initiatives and programmes.

To tackle this impellent issue, the FIRE project’s final conference shared with the partners, European experts and stakeholders the project’s findings and lessons learnt. The conference started with Rodolphe Doité (Head of EU Affairs, Sport and Citizenship) explaining the FIRE project’s objectives and achievements, especially the launch of a freely accessible training tool for local football clubs and organisations: the FIRE MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

Moderated by Rodolphe Doité, the first roundtable gathered partners. Virginie Ménard and Albrecht Sonntag (ESSCA School of Management), Grace Veys (Fare Network), Hedeli Sassi (Royal Belgium Football Association), Florin Sari (Romanian Football Federation), Laura Anderson (Scottish Football Association), Adriana Orbea (Fundación LaLiga) and Krysztof Jarymowicz (Fundacja dla Wolnosci and Etnoliga) offered a diverse point of view on how much football can do to help to socially include refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers.

Laurent Thieule (President, Sport and Citizenship) moderated the second panel discussion focusing on the issue of refugees, inclusion, and on the role of sport with four esteemed experts and European stakeholders. Panelists included Floor Van Houdt (Head of Unit, Sport Unit, European Commission ), Marco Martiniello (Director of Research at the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FRS-FNRS) and Director of Centre d’Etudes de l’Ethnicité et des Migrations at the University of Liege ), Nicolas Brass (Senior External Engagement Coordination for UNHCR ), and Saska Benedicic Tomat (Head of Project and IRTS Platform representative, International Sport and Culture Association).

Benjamin Renauld, in charge of “We Welcome Young Refugees” at Kraainem Football Club, was invited to provide his testimony about its experience at Kraainem Football Club.


The conference gave participants interesting insights on how much football can do to help to socially include refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers, while also raising the different barriers faced by each organization:

  • Bringing stakeholders together to identify main challenges and to adapt the project to the local context of each club to better integrate refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.
  • The FIRE project has provided a great opportunity to broaden football clubs and organizations’ focus to a reality that help them develop inclusion activities.
  • The FIRE MOOC allows grassroots football organizations to respond to the need of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.
  • Cooperation and collaboration is key to develop comprehensive strategies towards the inclusion of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

After two years and a half, the FIRE project has come to its end. Nonetheless, the MOOC will live on and continue supporting local football clubs and organisations gain more insight and understanding about refugees and the different challenges of their integration process. We are happy to have been able to contribute to the challenge in such a meaningful way and are grateful for all the fantastic people and organisations we met along the way.

Click here to read the minutes of the final conference