James Vickery, deaf sign performance group Unify and signing choir Hands 4 Voices, took to the pitch at Stamford Bridge during Chelsea FC’s home match against Brentford at the weekend to deliver an emotive BSL performance of Blue is The Colour – Chelsea’s club anthem of 51 years. Led by head chorister, Carol Cook, with partially deaf singer James Vickery supporting on vocals, the uplifting moment saw 40,000 Chelsea FC fans brought together in a shared moment to sing and sign the famous lyrics ‘We’re all together, and winning is our aim’, garnering a roaring reception from the crowd. The on-pitch activities marked the ongoing commitment between Cadbury Fingers, the National Deaf Children’s Society and Chelsea FC, at fostering better inclusivity within football and supporting the 46% of deaf people who feel the majority of sporting culture and match day experiences are only suitable for hearing people and not inclusive for all. Carol Cook from Hands 4 Voices says: ‘It was such an honour for us all to perform Chelsea’s iconic anthem at Stamford Bridge – everyone in the choir was a bit daunted by the size of the stadium and doing justice to the song we know means so much to fans, but the atmosphere was electric and the crowd were so supportive. It was a really special moment and hopefully just the start of more inclusivity within football both on and off the pitch’. In research released today, football is cited as the most popular sport amongst deaf people, with 93% agreeing you can’t beat the thrill of watching a sporting event live in a stadium. However, more than half of deaf fans (55%) believe their experiences at live sporting events are restricted due to a lack of deaf awareness, with 34% saying they often feel lonely or left out as it’s hard to interact with other fans and a further 30% saying they regularly struggle to understand on-pitch activity. The partnership between Cadbury Fingers, the National Deaf Children’s Society and Chelsea FC forms part of Cadbury Fingers’ wider ‘Sign with Fingers Big & Small’ campaign, which aims to encourage Brits to learn a little British Sign Language to help break down barriers between hearing and deaf people. As part of the initiative, Chelsea FC has begun training all staff members in BSL, with Conor Gallagher, Armando Broja, Lauren James and Hannah Hampton getting in on the action by learning phrases including ‘What’s the score?, ‘What a goal’ and ‘Nice to meet you’. This comes in response to the finding that 47% of deaf people would like to see more widespread use of BSL within the sports industry.
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