CAFE Managing Director Joyce Cook OBE recently spoke with the Sport and Citizenship scientific journal, who this month have included a special feature on Sport and Diversity. Joyce's interview was published in the journal, and you can read what she had to say below.

"The success of any project depends on the strength of the team"

Equality matters! Joyce Cook OBE is well-versed in making a difference in European football and gave a passionate speech to the first of UEFA's Captains of Change courses in January, drawing on her knowledge and considerable personal experiences as an openly gay, disabled woman.

What is the role of CAFE in Captains of Change?

JC: As a UEFA CSR associate partner, CAFE was invited to nominate a representative from within our network to take part in the Captains of Change programme which was something we were very keen to do. We jumped at the chance to be part of this ground-breaking UEFA initiative which aims to create diversity pioneers and to share best practice projects amongst its member associations. CAFE also works with UEFA’s National Associations and recognises the many good works are already underway across Europe but there is always so much more to do when it comes to diversity and inclusion. So we were delighted to see CAFE Director, Irina Bernstein join the inaugural programme to develop the Captains of Change Total Football Total Access to Work project.

And as the CAFE Managing Director, I was also invited to join the UEFA Captains of Change steering committee to provide expert advice and guidance around access and inclusion for disabled people and in supporting the various Captains of Change projects. As an openly gay disabled woman working in European football alongside UEFA and its stakeholders, and as a board member of Women in Football and FARE, I have been able to bring my equality knowledge and personal experiences to the table.

What were your experiences on the first week of the Captains of Change programme?

JC: It was incredibly exciting to see the programme come alive and the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the first Captains of Change. It’s always empowering to witness a group come together in such a way with a common goal and especially when it’s to promote the topic of diversity and inclusion with real passion. UEFA has put together a great team of senior persons and experts, both in-house and external, and invited its CSR partners, CAFE and FARE to join forces to support the project and each Captains of Change. It is clear that this investment is already proving successful with everyone involved getting behind the initiative and the participants.

What can you tell us about the potential for change in the proposed projects, both in implementation of initiatives and changes in mentality of people in football management?

JC: Of course, nothing can change without the commitment of the pioneering individuals and associations willing to embrace and to share new ideas and ways of thinking and working. It’s the same when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion. The success of any project depends on the strength of the team and all of us in football understand that the best teams always start with a great captain.

This new UEFA programme goes to the heart of that principle by supporting and equipping the UEFA Captains of Change with the knowledge and tools to affect lasting change in their own workplaces and to promote and share those successes and experiences of tolerance and inclusion with their peers and other associations.

The first Captains of Change projects cover a wide range of diversity and inclusion topics and offer models that should easily translate across different regions and cultures. Each goes to the heart of what it means to be tolerant and inclusive and considers ways to help support equality and diversity with initiatives that aim to empower and welcome a wide range of minority groups. Ultimately, the outcomes should see more women in leadership positions, gay and lesbian colleagues able to be open and free to express themselves to the best of their ability without fear of prejudice and for disabled people to be welcomed and valued as work colleagues and peers across our beautiful game.

We must not fail – there is too much at stake – and this programme is smart as it plays to the strengths that already exist in football and is based on a concept we all easily recognise and understand. If we are going to build a more tolerant and inclusive game for the long-term then we have to help one another to reach this goal through teamwork and open dialogue. That is what the Captains of Change programme is all about and this is a tournament where we all get to win.

What examples of good practice already exist in European football and how can they inspire these participants in their own projects?

JC: Of course, there are a number of great projects that already exist across Europe but we haven’t always done so well in sharing, supporting and learning from each other. Captains of Change offers us a real chance to put that right.

Published 13/05/2015