Blackburn sets first with Eid prayers at Ewood Park

Blackburn Rovers has hailed the success of its UK-first staging of Eid prayers on its stadium pitch, stating the venture is another example of why the Championship club was recognised by the English Football League (EFL) for its efforts concerning diversity.

Rovers on Monday became the first football club in the country to host the Eid prayers on the pitch.

Over 3,000 local Muslims, as well as others travelling from further afield, attended Ewood Park for the Eid Salah prayers, which celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadhan.

The special celebratory event was supported by Eid in the Park, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust and The Catering Co. Blackburn Rovers chief executive, Steve Waggott, said: “I think this is a hugely significant moment for football. Not just for Blackburn Rovers, but for football in general.

“We’ve all suffered over the past two years through COVID and social restrictions, so to see all the families – some or most who would never think about coming to Ewood Park – walking in here was just wonderful to see and now that they’ve seen it and they’ve had a lovely time, hopefully they want to come back.

“We’re the first club to ever host the Eid prayer on the pitch, which is great, but it follows on from the last few years of having a prayer room installed, having alcohol-free bars, having Halal food, launching an Ewood Express service to bring young people and families to the stadium… all the things we have to do to attract a new wave of supporters from our South Asian community.

“We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes, which culminated in us winning the Diversity Award at the EFL Awards last week. So we’ve had a great sequence of events, but more important than the talk is the action that we’re going to be doing and carrying on into the future.”

Ewood Park wasn’t the only UK sporting venue to play host to Eid al-Fitr celebrations as Birmingham’s Edgbaston Stadium, home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, expanded on an initial event held last year.

Edgbaston welcomed around 2,000 visitors for prayers through a partnership with Birmingham’s Green Lane Masjid & Community Centre (GLMCC). The prayers were held on the training ground adjacent to the main stadium.

Softball cricket sessions were then delivered by Warwickshire Cricket Board coaches to children on the stadium’s outfield and a lunch was hosted in the Banqueting Suite.

Stuart Cain, chief executive of Edgbaston, said: “GLMCC have been a key supporter of our work in the local community over the last 12 months. Despite the impact of COVID, we were able to work together at short-notice last year to stage prayers for 500 friends of GLMCC. However, we’ve proven that without the restrictions and with more planning time that we can quadruple the number of people that we have accommodated.

“We both share ambitions to further develop the annual prayer event, but we want the relationships with our community partners to be constant and to make Edgbaston a hub for the local community that consistently hosts cultural events and celebrations for all to enjoy.”

Image: Blackburn Rovers