Isaac Pollard – An exploration of how young refugees and asylum seekers in Liverpool use community football to facilitate and negotiate integration, assimilation and belonging

Isaac Pollard is currently affiliated with the Department of Social Sciences at Edge Hill University. Having studied for his undergraduate degree at the institution, he immediately followed this up by joining the MRes programme, incorporating both sociological enquiry and a love of sport into his studies. His research focuses on the way in which young refugees and asylum seekers in inner city Liverpool use community football, organised by the Liverpool County Football Association. Much of his undergraduate work, where the student was allowed to focus on a particular issue, such as research methods work and dissertation thesis, focussed on issues relating to ethnic minorities in the UK, so when the opportunity to continue research with minorities presented itself, it was seized with both hands.

His MRes research focuses entirely on the way in which young refugees and asylum seekers (18-30) use community football to facilitate and negotiate a sense of belonging and integration in an otherwise alien community. Much of the research focuses on a reconceptualization of identity, seeing it not as a ‘social monolith’ anymore, but seeking to show how social activities such as sport have the potential to deconstruct and reformulate identity. There is also an examination of how although the ultimate marker of belonging in a country may be obtaining citizenship, is this actually the most important thing to consider when looking at notions of belonging? Or is comfort in a new country and building interpersonal relationships a more significant indicator of belonging?

As for why he decided to undertake the research, the reason is simple: to give those who generally aren’t listened to a voice. It also offered the opportunity to combine his academic interests with one of his great personal interests. A lot of people want to change the world, for him the opportunity to allow a marginalised group a voice was enough. However, in the long-term goal is to take this work, and any subsequent work, to the powers that be, the national FA, and allow for funding to be provided for projects devoted to the inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers in the modern game.

Finally, the research aims to provide a completely original contribution to knowledge, there is very little work on how football specifically facilitates a sense of belonging among refugees and asylum seekers, and none that has been conducted in Liverpool