Source: The FA/Pitch

Lionesses to wear tops with their names in British Sign Language

  • +1

EE has created a set of British Sign Language (BSL) training tops, in partnership with The FA, that will be worn by the Lionesses as they warm up ahead of their European Qualifier with Sweden on Friday 5th April at Wembley Stadium, connected by EE.

Each jersey will display the player’s name in the BSL fingerspelling alphabet in a bid to celebrate British Sign Language and act as a visual reminder of how football can be made more accessible to all fans. It comes as data reveals that while an estimated 1.2 million adults in the UK have hearing loss severe enough to impede most conversational speech, there are approximately only 150,000 BSL signers (87,000 of whom are deaf).

Football fans will be able to get their hands on a player-worn British Sign Language shirt via EE’s Instagram channel while EE will also raise money for the Royal Association for Deaf People through an auction of these unique ‘Signed Shirts.’

The FA will also be inviting players and staff from the England women’s deaf football team to attend the Sweden fixture in the Royal Box and be presented to fans at half-time in recognition of their third place finish at the 2023 World Deaf Championships in Brazil.

The warm-up shirts form part of ‘Support. It’s In Your Hands’, a campaign launched by EE, the lead partner of the Home Nations Football Associations, last month to keep the BSL users in the deaf community involved in the football conversation by encouraging the use of sign language in both deaf and non-deaf communities.

The campaign launched with a hero film that showcased the ways BSL is incorporated in football, as well as a host of content on EE’s LearnSmart platform that features footballing stars from the four Home Nations including Mary Earps, Jess Carter, Rachel Corsie, Bukayo Saka, Ella Toone and Harry Kane, teaching football-themed BSL phrases. ‘Support. It’s In Your Hands’ was created with support from the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) and the Home Nations Football Associations.

British Sign Language was officially recognised as a language of England, Wales and Scotland in 2002, and it was recently announced that it will be offered as a GCSE subject from 2025. However, with the number of people with hearing loss projected to increase in coming years (an estimated 14.2 million people in the UK will experience hearing loss by 2035), EE aims to ensure no one feels left out of the football conversation by leveraging its lead partnership of the four Home Nations Football Associations to encourage football fans, young and old, to learn some BSL and sign their support.

England star, Lucy Bronze, said: “As footballers, it is important to use our platform to spread messages of inclusivity wherever possible. I, together with the rest of the team, will be proud to wear these shirts ahead of our game against Sweden at Wembley. Anything that can be done to help the deaf community feel more welcome in football is an important step.”

Pete Jeavons, Marketing Communications Director, EE said: “By promoting British Sign Language during a high-profile competitive game between two of the best sides in the world, we hope to encourage both deaf and non-deaf communities to embrace this essential form of communication. As the lead partner of the Home Nations Football Associations, we are committed to making football accessible for everyone. We hope football fans will use this opportunity to not only support the Lionesses but to also learn more about BSL, so we can help everyone feel a part of the football conversation”.

‘Support. It’s In Your Hands’ will see EE activate across a range of touchpoints, including:

  • Harnessing FA partner channels to distribute content to promote the use of and learning of BSL. The highlight of these being the ‘EE BSL challenge’ which sees three male England players take on three Lionesses in an obstacle course that requires them to complete sign-based challenges with the help of four England Deaf squad players.
  • Assembling a squad of five content creators to spread the message of inclusivity far and wide: the squad will consist of Shiona McClafferty, Jazzy Whipps, India Morse, Leon Walker Dobson and Ray Bradshaw, who will produce engaging content that helps teach the basics of BSL through the football lens.
  • Facilitating training for its colleagues in Deaf Awareness courses which include some BSL basics. By encouraging greater Deaf Awareness internally, EE will also contribute to further Deaf Awareness and British Sign Language learning across BT Group, alongside an accessibility audit for consumer facing webpages.

The campaign is part of EE’s ongoing and longstanding commitment to supporting the para & disability community in football and beyond. Last season, this came to life through ‘New Signing’, a campaign which saw the world’s first BSL pundits presenting televised sport. This is just the start for EE, with many more activations planned for the coming year that reinforce EE’s commitment to supporting the Deaf community and people with hearing loss.

For more information on how to learn BSL and sign your support, visit eelearnsmart.co.uk.

With thanks to the FA via Pitch

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *