When Fontaines DC met Bohemian FC: ‘Homelessness can be solved’

A football club and rock band join forces: ‘Homelessness can’t be something we accept’

Dublin football club Bohemians have a new strip. It was created in association with and featuring lyrics from Grammy-nominated Irish rock band Fontaines DC. Fifteen per cent of the proceeds from sales of the new strip will go to the homelessness charity Focus Ireland.

"The jersey has a real homage to Dublin on it," says Dan Lambert, 34-year-old co-owner (with his sister) of the Bang Bang café in Phibsborough, manager of the hip hop combo Kneecap and the recently-appointed chief operating officer of Bohemians whose main partner, Des Kelly Interiors, supported the new strip.

“It features the Poolbeg towers, the Grattan Bridge lamps. On the back it has ‘Beware of the risen people’. We took a tracing of that. It’s what Pearse wrote in the cell in Kilmainham… ‘Dublin in the rain is mine’ is on the inside collar, that’s one of [Fontaine DC’s] lyrics.”

Bohemians have a good reputation for social engagement. They run activities for older people and programmes for prisoners in Mountjoy prison. They regularly work with homelessness charities like Focus Ireland and Inner City Helping Homelessness. They have campaigned in support of marriage equality. Last year they launched an away kit that featured the slogan "Refugees Welcome".


Lambert thinks this social consciousness is rooted in their status as an increasingly rare member-owned club. The club was founded in 1890. Lambert has been on the board since 2011 and has been COO since last year. He has never lived more than a few miles from the club, he says.

"Bohs are apolitical in that we have our membership open to everyone but having a 100% members-owned club with no capacity for personal profits, that wouldn't really subscribe to a hyper capitalist agenda. The club is structured in such a way that it's set up to be accessible, inclusive, and proactive.

“The values of the club would resonate with the idea of being progressive and inclusive, whether it’s marriage equality, whether it’s LGBT sports, whether it’s having an awareness and willingness to draw a spotlight on people who are homeless or the issues of immigrants. They reflect the values of the club that were set down a very long time ago.”

In contrast, football more widely has been privatised and dominated by the values of big business.

"You look internationally at the levels of money or [what's happening with] the World Cup in Qatar, everybody knows that this stuff isn't right but it just kind of careers away," says Lambert.

“The strength of Bohemians we derive from people in the local area and the city. For us to have a strong level of support, it’s really important that the club engages in and contributes positively to issues that affect everybody . . . If you’re a members-owned club, your ‘investors’ are ordinary people who have made a commitment. €365 for some people, is a huge commitment . . .

“The reality is that somebody at another club can run a loss of a million quid and that’s their right . . . Whereas with a members-owned club you have to ensure that you operate sustainably and do what you can to preserve the club for the next generation.”

Direct provision

There has been occasionally resistance to their social engagement, notably around their pro-refugee stance.

"There is a small percentage of people who would [believe that] this isn't something football should get involved in," he says. "Irish people per capita, we emigrated more than any country in the world... To think we shouldn't be giving a helping hand that wouldn't be something that Bohs would subscribe to. Everyone understands football. There are no barriers to entry.

“A kid from a direct provision centre with almost nothing will be able to play a game of football, hopefully, even if it’s in the corridor and a patch of grass. Sport brings people together. People from different backgrounds can love the same football club or love the same band.”

Fontaines DC became involved in this project after curating a Rock against Homelessness gig in the Olympia at which Kneecap, who Lambert manages, played.

“We had a conversation with them about trying to bring together the power of music and football to shine a spotlight on what’s happening in this country with the normalisation of homelessness,” says Lambert. “That can’t be allowed to happen. It can’t be something that we accept. Homelessness can be solved.”

Fontaines DC's drummer Tom Coll recalls first meeting Lambert in his café, around the corner from the shed in which the band practiced in Phibsborough.

“I wouldn’t have been exposed to many football clubs who had a really progressive community spirit,” he says, from London to where the band has recently relocated.

“We were all intrigued by that. We were hanging around with Dan and that led to us going to the matches. Bohs are an organisation that really care about the community . . . Having a Dublin football team having ‘Refugees Welcome’ be the biggest thing on their shirt, that’s amazing . . . Politically, in Ireland, we don’t like to align ourselves any party or anything like that, because . . . I don’t know, I feel like they’re all shit man.” He laughs.

“But having a social conscience, when it comes to setting and the city that you’re in, that’s really important to us. So that’s why we got on so well with Dan and everyone at Bohs because they all think like that and probably to a more intense degree that we do. We just write songs and that’s kind of what we do, but Dan lives that shit.” He laughs. “It’s great.”

Left destitute

Both Coll and Lambert are appalled by the way in which many of their fellow citizens have been left destitute in the city. Part of what Bohs represents is a reclamation of public space, says Lambert.

“I left college in 2008 and walked straight out into a recession after everyone in college said you can do whatever you like. A football club and music and a band can give people a sense of place and you want to have pride in your place.

“But can you have pride in Dublin where you can’t find a rehearsal space or where you can’t afford to practice your art, where the system is set up in such a way you need to earn this amount by this age or you can’t have these normal things? Look at how few houses we build [compared to] the 50s 60s and 70s.... The social safety nets that we have in terms of education and healthcare have been removed.

“And then you say to somebody, like one of the lads in Kneecap or a young footballer ‘You’re choosing to do something for love and passion for it but if you don’t do this by this age, you’ll have inferior level of housing or healthcare?’ That’s not a good environment. It’s not a society to be proud of. We seem to have moved to a place where almost everything is tied the financial measure of it.”

And this is what resonates with Fontaines DC, the idea that sport and music can be vital for the community in which they live. Though the band come from different parts of the world –Monaghan, Mayo, Madrid and Dublin – Dublin was where they formed (the DC stands for Dublin City) and they want to be a positive force for it.

“I lived on Thomas Street for six or seven years,” says Tom Coll. “It was unbelievable. I really loved it. The people that you meet around there and the community spirit in the Liberties is second to none. When you’re walking around everyone knows each other and that’s an absolutely beautiful thing but you have this dichotomy – I’m this student from Mayo, going to art college and living in the Liberties so I am part of the problem as well, of driving up rents of people who are from the area.”

He already feels a bit homesick for Dublin, he says.

“I was so sad moving. I couldn’t really say a proper goodbye to the city [because of Covid restrictions]. And I hate to be playing into that typical thing of a band comes out with a few records and then moves to London. That feels like the most clichéd shit ever.”

It’s offset by the fact that they’re going to be on a Dublin football team’s shirt though, right? He laughs. “It offsets it perfectly. I’m really proud to be able to help in whatever small way we can.”

For Lambert both football and music are, at their best, all about community, identity and dignity.

“Thirty years ago, everyone went to church, people were members of a union, people had jobs that were vocational for the most part,” he says.

“All of those cradle-to-grave things have gone. People don’t go to church. They’re not really members of unions. The job market is very transient, the housing market more so . . . If you have a job where you see no tangible results, and on top of that, you’re living month by month with rent, where are the reference points for you as a person?

"A lot of your life touch points are in flux but a football club remains and music remains. I went to Bohs as a baby and I'll go there till I'm dead. And that's not uncommon. We'll win some years and other years we won't win [but]it's one of the few things in my life that I can say will be a part of my life in my 20s and in my 70s and 80s."