'Connected, that's how I feel'

ALBION have earned more plaudits from football’s leading fans group for the ‘open door’ policy which continues to drive the Club’s commitment to inclusivity.

More than 150 women, mostly from a Smethwick-based wellbeing venture for Asian women named the Aman Group, were welcomed to The Hawthorns which for many was a first visit despite living within sight of its floodlights for many years.

The Club and The Albion Foundation hope its warm welcome will convince the group to return as it continues its campaign to connect with all corners of its local community.

Maria Horner, Campaigns Officer for the Football Supporters' Federation, was among the throng and declared the initiative "a huge success."

She said: "It has been a really good example of how a Club, its supporters and the Foundation can all come together and welcome part of the community that hasn't really been involved in the Club to date.

"Football is for everybody, and if you are interested in football you should be able to walk into your local club and enjoy a matchday."

For many it was a first visit which meant they were able to look out onto the famous Hawthorns pitch while also enjoying a jovial atmosphere in the Richardson Suite, in which there was food and music.

Herbans Dhillon, who has lived in Smethwick since 1978, said that the work the Club Albion and Foundation are doing has helped her to feel an affiliation with Albion.

"Connected, that's how I feel," she said.

"This is the first time I have come here, and it's brilliant. I would love to come to a game here.

"I have always thought that it was for somebody else to go to the matches, but now, things have changed, time has gone on and with the banter at work I have become more and more interested."

Albion's Chief Executive, Mark Jenkins, was there to welcome the group and said he was proud of the efforts of Club and Foundation in strengthening its tie to its community.

"It's just a lovely morning," he said.

"I'm just stunned by the number of people here, it is a community spirit and it just oozes out of the room.

"We do a lot of good work at the Club, but today is especially good - I'm very proud."

Gurdial Singh, an Engagement Officer at the Foundation, was delighted with how the morning went.

"It's surreal," she said.

"The aim was to introduce a generation of women that would never have imagined stepping foot inside of a football ground.

"It makes me happy to see them come into a place that was alien to them and for them to feel at home and welcomed to the extent they are wanting to come to games now, it makes me appreciate the link between the Club and Apna Albion.

Supported by Sandwell College and a host of local businesses, the event was the first of its kind at The Hawthorns.

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