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Levante UD: where social inclusion has become business strategy

Levante UD: where social inclusion has become business strategy

Over 20 years, the Valencian club has built an approach to equality that has become the core of its identity.

Through creating job opportunities and increasing representation within society, the implications of this work stretch far beyond football.

Football fans come from all walks of life and expect to feel welcomed and represented when they interact with their club. At Levante UD, this approach to inclusivity informs everything that it does.

The Valencian club, which runs 32 different football teams encompassing different age groups, genders and physical abilities, is not just providing a platform for a wide range of professionals to compete. It defines itself by normalizing groups that had previously been marginalized.

Over more than 20 years, an approach has been developed within the club’s foundation to treat all footballers equally. As well as creating sporting success, this has also helped to increase acceptance in wider society.

“For us, the main outcome of playing football is socialization,” said Vicente Herrero, Director of the Levante UD foundation. “We have created an environment where both male and female players, with and without physical or intellectual disabilities, are mixing on an almost daily basis. For us it’s a model of not just how a club should run, but a community too.”

Managing equal opportunities

Levante UD’s approach to inclusivity can be traced back to 1998 when its women’s team was created. But it did not stop there. One of the cornerstones of the club’s efforts to make football accessible to all has been its Football School for People with Intellectual Disabilities (EDI). After beginning in 2012, the school has grown in size and is now helping around 150 people fulfil their sporting dreams.

On top of this, the club has had a wheelchair hockey team since 2009 and has run a flagship adaptive sport programme since 2012, which has included visits by a full range of its players to local schools, a seven-a-side team for players with cerebral palsy, plus much more.

For Herrero, the enduring success of these teams is due to the environment of inclusion that the club has built. “From the beginning all the adapted sports sections were integrated into the structure of the club like any other team,” he said. “We also have technicians and professionals such as psychologists who are equipped to respond to all the needs of our players.”


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