Evie Kissack chats to Skye Stewart, Chairwoman of Black Country Fusion FC, about the team's involvement in Carling's nationwide ad campaign. 


About the Made Local Fund

As part of the new campaign, Carling has committed to a multi-million pound investment into its Made Local Fund over the next three years to support local, community projects across the UK – just like Black Country Fusion FC. The Made Local Fund celebrates a generation’s ambition to make things happen in their own backyard, projects that bring people together over shared passions and create opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Carling will be investing in those things, big or small, that matter most to local communities. The Fund will support local culture, from providing new kits to sports club to breathing new life in to a local venue - encouraging creative endeavor to thrive up and down the country.

 Black Country Fusion FC were one of the first beneficiaries of the Made Local Fund last year, receiving new home and away kits from Carling for the 2018/19 season, helping boost awareness and raise the profile of the team in the local community – but now even more people can benefit from the exciting opportunity.

Through the launch of the initiative, Carling is looking to invest in projects that contribute to the local community. Whether it’s setting up a community gym, finding a location for an open-mic night or breathing new life in to a local venue – there’s a Made Local Fund to help you make it where you're from.


An Interview with Skye Stewart, Black Country Fusion Chairwoman 

When and why did you decide to start the football club?  

I am a trans woman, and all through my life I have really shied away from sport. Because I am transgender, I have always felt uncomfortable taking part in football. I knew that I had a lot to offer, and I had some amazing ideas that I wanted to share! So, I decided to set up my own football team in Wolverhampton - I was a bit too old to play competitive football [laughs]. I just wanted to share some inspiration, and let others know that you can be gay, or trans, and still play football. That’s how Black Country Fusion originally started back in 2016. We set up meetings, and we found that many players that were attending the meetings were actually heterosexual, but they all supported the cause. We were the first LGBTQ+ friendly team in the Midlands - and actually only the third team in the country - to enter a non-gay league. What we have achieved over the past three years has been quite shocking, really! We never expected it to grow as big as it has done; we are really proud. 

Why do you think your story inspired Carling to share it with the nation?

For the Made Local fund Carling were looking for positive stories within communities. Wolverhampton is quite a small city, so often we don’t get recognised – we are sometimes overshadowed by Birmingham. They spoke to the players, and myself, and they seemed really inspired by how passionate we are about being from Wolverhampton and being from the Black Country; about how it runs through our blood. I think the camaraderie within the team is inspiring – we’re not just a football team, we’re a family. We are always there for each other. That really came across when we were on Skype calls with the casting directors. The Made Local Fund is an amazing project – lots of other positive campaigns or groups within local communities can apply for it. We were lucky to be one of the first teams to benefit from the Fund. 


‘We’re not just a football team, we’re a family.”


Black Country Fusion FC was one of the first beneficiaries of the Made Local Fund last year – how has the funding helped the team?  

We received home and away kits from the Fund, as well as new equipment. We could run football sessions to our community with high quality training, especially using the equipment we were provided with. I think that’s what comes across is our passion for the team, and our passion for the Carling sponsor. We are wearing our Carling kit with pride. 

What do the new kits symbolise for you?

The badge we wear is the Black Country badge – we are proud of where we are from, of our history. Our emblem and our crest symbolises our heritage – I think the strip embodies our passion. We thought the colour grey stood out on the field – not many other football teams go for grey. We like to be different, and we think our message stands out, so it’s important our kits do too. 

How did you feel when it was confirmed your team would be one of the stars of Carling’s nationwide advertisement campaign?

It was absolutely amazing! We filmed the campaign back in 2017 – it was six full days of filming. I am still so proud of all of the lads in the team. As the face and the voice for Black Country Fusion, it’s great to have an amazing team behind me. It’s so exciting to see the team on telly, and share our story with the nation. We aren’t the only LGBTQ+ friendly team within the country, but we do hope our message reaches others. The advert focuses on inclusivity, and that is vital. Children are the future of football – we want to inspire a new generation and others. We want to encourage people to not be discriminative on the pitch - and in the stands as well. It’s not just the LGBTQ+ community we want to reach out to - we don’t agree with any kind of discrimination. Black Country Fusion has a strong ethos of equality for all. There is a lot of xenophobia and racism within the football society; we think there is no place for it and want to change that.   


“We want to encourage people to not be discriminative on the pitch - and in the stands as well.”


Why do you think more people should apply for the Made Local Fund?

There are so many positive stories and projects happening in local communities. If people do go on the Carling website, and apply for the Made Local Fund, they could be the next stars within their own areas! 

How have you found the response from the local community since being part of Carling’s advertisement campaign?

The local community have been amazing, very supportive. Some people had never heard of us before, and they want to come down and see what we’re all about. We do a lot of charity work, a lot of charity football matches. The public support will help a lot of charities throughout 2019 – we have several games coming up over the year. It’s also nice to have a little bit of fame in the local area too – the guys love the attention! [Laughs] 


If you could summarise what the spirit of Black Country Fusion is all about in just a few words, what would they be?

It’s family and inclusivity. 


“It’s not just the LGBT community we want to reach out to - we don’t agree with any kind of discrimination. Black Country Fusion has a strong ethos of equality for all.” 


To discover more about Carling’s Made Local Fund and to see how you can apply, visit www.carling.com/apply-for-fund

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