The close links between the Christian faith and football will be celebrated at a special event being held at Wembley Stadium this Sunday afternoon.
The Football Association – the governing body of the sport in England – has partnered with several Christian organisations, including the Evangelical Alliance, to mark the relationship between Christianity and ‘the beautiful game.’
The event will begin in the stadium’s Bobby Moore suite with an interview panel of Christian players, coaches and club staff, hosted by broadcaster and journalist Adrian Chiles as well as a keynote address from Simon Thomas, the host of Sky Sport’s flagship football programme ‘Soccer Saturday.’
After mulled wine and mince pies, guests will head out onto the famous Wembley terraces for carols and – the organisers promise – “an inspiring message.”
Among those due to attend the special event are top footballers Rachel Yankey and John Bostock; Roman Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols; Anglican Bishop of Derby Libby Lane; General Director of Christians in Sport Graham Daniels; The London Adventist Chorale and the Regent Park Salvation Army Band.
How football goes ‘hand in hand with Christianity’ was featured in a Religion Media Centre briefing, with those taking part including Peter Lupson, author of ‘Thank God for Football’ that describes how many of today’s Premier League clubs – including Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa – have their roots in local churches.
Others taking part included Rev Pouya Heidari, former professional footballer in Iran, now a vicar in Surrey and captain of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s football team, and former Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth player Linvoy Primus.
Many football clubs in the Premier League and other leagues have chaplains who work to support the players and support staff.
On its website, the Football Association says “Football can bring people from all backgrounds together and many of us practise our faiths and interact with football as part of our daily lives. Faith and football are intrinsic.
“Delivering a game free from discrimination is one of our key priorities at the FA. Our group strategy called ‘Time for Change’ outlines six key game changers, of which ‘delivering a game free from discrimination’ is one.”
In 2021, the FA launched a new equality, diversity and inclusion strategy called ‘A Game for All’ which sets out its plans for football to 2024. With the support of the FA’s Faith and Football Group, it has also published 2022-23 editions of an equality, diversity and inclusion calendar for grassroots football and a ‘Faith and Football’ educational document.
Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK and a former communications director with the CofE. He is a season ticket holder at Premier League club Brentford FC.