Monthly Staff Blog
Kick It Out has a small team of 13 full-time staff who work in different fields of football to ensure that its messages of equality and inclusion are spread as far and wide as possible.
Every month, each member of staff will give a unique insight into what they do for the organisation in an exclusive feature for the Kick It Out website.
Monthly Staff Blog
June/July - George Starkey-Midha, Media + Communications Assistant
For June and July, George Starkey-Midha, Kick It Out’s Media and Communications Assistant, reflects on an extremely busy period which included the culmination of the Klick It Out campaign to tackle social media discrimination, as well as the launch of the organisation’s latest initiative, Call Full Time On Hate.
George discusses the hard work that went into running the Klick It Out campaign and what the organisation hopes to achieve from Call Full Time On Hate, as well as the preparation taking place ahead of 2016/17 season.
With both grassroots and professional football enjoying a break, the summer can be a quieter period for Kick It Out, consisting mostly of planning for the upcoming season.
However, with a major campaign running throughout June, along with the soft launch of an anti-hate initiative in July, that quiet period never really materialised in the Kick It Out offices.
June – Klick It Out
Klick It Out, which lasted the duration of Euro 2016, dominated much of mine and my colleagues’ time during June, particularly those of us working in the Media and Communications team, as we were leading on the campaign.
Discrimination on social media – the key issue that the campaign sought to challenge – was one that we feel particularly strongly about here at Kick It Out. Online abuse is a growing issue across society and that has been reflected in the rising number of reports we have been receiving into our reporting department.
A significant amount of time had gone into planning and producing our signature short film for Klick It Out (above), so naturally a key objective for us was to promote it as far and wide as possible. My role as Media and Communications Assistant involves a lot of work with social media so a major role I undertook was to oversee the marketing of the film across our three accounts – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
We were fortunate enough to have Facebook and Twitter as partners on the campaign, and they demonstrated their commitment to the cause by providing us with a significant amount of free advertising space across their platforms so that we could promote the film. By the time the campaign ended on 11 July – the day after the final – we had reached over 900,000 views, which I was delighted with.
The short film focused predominantly on what might happen to those who post discriminatory abuse on social media – we believe it was important to send a message to abusers that online discrimination has real-life consequences. However, we also felt it was vital that we raised awareness of the potential impact of discrimination on those who are being targeted.
It was difficult to convey that message in such a short film, so we resolved to give people who had suffered online abuse the opportunity to tell their story elsewhere. On our Klick It Out microsite, launched exclusively for the campaign, we published a series of interviews with the likes of Clarke Carlisle, Bianca Westwood, Jason Cundy and a range of other people who work in or support football, reflecting on the impact that discrimination on social media had on them.
We were also eager to showcase our reporting methods and in particular, encouraged everyone to download our app on iOS or Android – we hope to see an increased number of people reporting online discrimination this season as a result!
Ultimately, we were delighted with the campaign but we’re under no illusion that the problem has been solved. Going forward, we will continue to work closely with the football authorities, football clubs, the police and social media platforms in order to eliminate online abuse from the game we love.
July – Call Full Time On Hate
As our Klick It Out campaign came to an end, focus shifted towards the development of our new anti-hate initiative – ‘Call Full Time On Hate’ – which we aimed to launch in early September.
Over the last couple years, there has been a significant amount of evidence showing that incidents of hate and discrimination in society are on the rise; that’s why we felt it was crucial to lead the way in uniting football to send a collective message that hate has no place in our game.
Having established the core motivation behind the initiative, much of our initial work centred around coming up with the best way we could convey a message against hate. As with Klick It Out, much of my role was weighted towards the marketing of the campaign on social media, which I really enjoyed.
The key point that we wanted to get through to those involved in football is that the initiative is about bringing together the collective force of the game, rather than it being a purely Kick It Out-led project. With that in mind, senior members of our team worked tirelessly to liaise with football’s key stakeholders as to how they could get on board, whilst I looked after more day-to-day duties to free up their time.
As the month of July drew to an end, I was working closely with my colleagues in the department, Tom Taylor, Media and Communications Officer, and Mark Jamieson, Media and Communications Manager, to help plan the launch of the initiative, which included finding a venue, deciding the format of the event and organising invitations.
We’re extremely positive about how the preparations are going and feel that the initiative could have a big impact this season. Keep an eye out for #CallFullTimeOnHate content and please show your support where you can!
May - Anna Jönsson, Reporting Officer
In May, Anna Jönsson, Kick It Out’s Reporting Officer, reflects on the launch of the organisation’s Klick It Out campaign, which seeks to challenge and raise awareness about the impact of football-related social media discrimination.
As part of a series of interviews and blogs with people from within the game discussing online abuse, Anna reflects the importance of reporting discrimination in football and how still there’s a perception of the ‘wild west’ about social media.
As a third-party reporting bureau, we always have to ensure the victim or people abused are at the centre of everything we do. It is our role to listen to their needs and support them, wherever possible, with their case.
I started at Kick It Out in October 2013 after the organisation started receiving reports of online discrimination in 2012/13. Being used to social media myself, I knew that some of the incidents coming our way were going to be shocking, but I was unprepared for just how nasty some posts were.
There have been occasions when I’ve seen a particularly horrid post, which might mention multiple protected characteristics (such as sexual orientation, disability, sex or race, for example), that shocks you to the core. I did, however, enter the role with my eyes wide open about what I’d be dealing with.
Sadly, you expect some of the posts. But what I didn’t expect was the lack of action or a response from the police. At the time we were reporting cases to TrueVision (a police-funded website where you can report hate crime), but you rarely received a response.
To combat this, both I and the organisation have had to be creative and over the years have tried to find ways where there can be a better outcome. But for us as an organisation to continue to improve the procedures, the message is to always report discrimination if you can and you can find details of how to do so here.
For football-related cases, where there’s enough information to build a picture of a person’s identity who has posted something discriminatory, we’ve started approaching football clubs to see if the user is a season ticket holder or member. We then ask the club to see if they’d take action.
It’s important to say that there’s no policy stating clubs have to take action. We try to influence the club to take action, some may choose not to but we’ve had cases where clubs have warned or banned offenders, and in some ways that can be more impactful than involving the police.
I’m not saying that a knock on the front door from an officer doesn’t have a consequence but, considering the importance many fans place on their clubs and football, the potential they may be banned from a stadium, for example, can have a big impact and may make others think twice before posting.
We hope supporters don’t post any type of discrimination but we all know this isn’t the case. Inside stadiums there’s the direct consequence that if a supporter uses racist language, for example, it can be reported to us, the club and or police, and fans know they could be banned as a result of that act. We are trying to push clubs to take similar action if their supporters engage in the same behaviour online. Online abuse has just a severe impact on individuals as incidents happening within stadiums or on the pitch, and it is important that we tackle it together.
We take each case on an individual basis but as a principle we’re not interested in criminalising young supporters. In these instances we tend to suggest an education course or session that can have an impact on them and their future behaviour.
In my role, I’ve found there is no easy way of telling what the best outcome or punishment is, certainly not when it comes to football or sports related incidents online, that’s why so much of what we do is on a case-by-case basis.
To give you an example, we had an incident where racism was directed towards Chris Hughton on social media when he was manager for Norwich FC. We agreed with the police to an education session for the supporter, who was open to this and ended up writing an apology letter. It may not always be appropriate with restorative justice as a solution if the offender isn’t open to it, but in my experience it can be impactful and make a positive change to someone’s life.
Many of us spend our days on various social media platforms, and it is fully integrated in our way of living. Yet there’s still a perception that online actions aren’t as impactful as they are in stadiums or ‘real life’. That is still a challenge for us to overcome and where we need to be telling the stories of victims of online discrimination.
We have to keep on pushing hard for people to understand it is real life. What you post does have an impact, and it can have a devastating effect on an individual.
Social media is an exciting place for football supporters to share their passion for the game and it’s a shame we need to highlight these issues. Every day we see examples of online discrimination that uses football as a platform, and that tells us that we need to keep on doing more. We all need to make sure social media is used for what it was made for, communication, enjoyment and most important, bringing people from all backgrounds together.
April - Rishi Jain, Football League Clubs Development Officer
For April, Kick It Out’s Monthly Staff Blog welcomes Rishi Jain, Football League Clubs Development Officer, who writes about his work supporting the 72 clubs on initiatives such as dedicated campaigning fixtures and the Football League Code of Practice.
Rishi also discusses the vital campaigning work he is doing in schools alongside Football League clubs and players, as well as discussing how his recent appointment as the Chair of the Liverpool County FA Inclusion Advisory Group will support his role at Kick It Out.
Football League Code of Practice
One of my key roles at Kick It Out is to manage our relationship with the Football League clubs, which involves supporting their campaigning fixtures – each club dedicates at least one home fixture to our organisation’s work every season – as well as helping to coordinate any campaigning work we run together in schools, local youth centres or the local community.
A large part of my role is helping clubs achieve the Football League Code of Practice. The Code of Practice was introduced at the beginning of the 2014/15 campaign as part of a commitment to English football’s Inclusion & Anti-Discrimination Action Plan, which ensures clubs are inclusive across all sections of their business.
It was developed with 12 sections covering topics such as best practice towards employees, spectators and other people engaged with the club, and was signed into regulation by all of the Football League. Ultimately, it’s about embedding equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the club, setting accountability at the highest level.
Much of our efforts involve working closely with staff within the club to deliver equality training, to establish HR policies, to help them engage better with fans, to address lack of diversity in terms of fan attendances and to work on engaging with the local community, along with several other key areas.
All Football League will be working towards their Code of Practice over the next few seasons. For those clubs close to gaining that recognition, a number of clubs have been providing evidence over the last month.
Equally, it’s been a busy period for myself and I’ve spent time at clubs such as Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley to deliver equality training to staff and ensure their submission reflects the progress they’ve been making.
Different clubs are at various stages of the process as they move towards achieving the Code of Practice, but I’m delighted that we’re moving in the right direction.
We also have two Football League Clubs who are really excelling in this area; Wigan Athletic and Birmingham City, who are both working towards different levels of the Premier League Equality Standard.
School Campaigning Visits
Our campaigning work in schools, youth centres and within the local community is a vital aspect of our organisation. We always encourage clubs to go that extra mile and work closely with us, in partnership with their community trust, to set up educational events with local groups.
Towards the end of April, we were lucky enough to do that up in Carlisle at a relatively small primary school called Castle Carrock. We had Carlisle Football Club in attendance, with their centre back Michael Raynes with us too and we delivered some equality workshops, as well as creative writing sessions and poster competitions to engage the pupils in our work.
A great day ended with an autograph session and a Q&A with Michael in front of the whole school, which brought together an exciting day for the young students.
It’s a fantastic part of what we do, as well as displaying our strength and variety as an organisation. Equally, it helps us demonstrate how solid our relationships with clubs are and how much progress we are making together.
Liverpool County FA Inclusion Advisory Group
I was recently appointed the Chair of Liverpool County FA’s Inclusion Advisory Group (IAG), which alongside my role as a member of The FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board, will allow me to continue to spread Kick It Out’s messages of equality and inclusion within football.
As my part of my new position, I will support, guide and provide advice to Liverpool County FA around their inclusion work and help them to develop policies that will enable frameworks and standards to be met.
Even though the role is independent of my position at Kick It Out, it will help extend the organisation’s reach because the IAG make a real effort to engage with the local community and encourage diversity.
It’s been a really busy time for me and everyone else at Kick It Out – I’m sure it will continue!
March - Troy Townsend, Education and Development Manager
March sees Troy Townsend, Education and Development Manager, write about his work delivering education workshops to Premier League Academy players, parents and staff and Football League Scholars to raise awareness about key issues around parental support and discrimination within football.
Furthermore, with Kick It Out’s national Raise Your Game conference coming up on Tuesday 19 April, Troy explains his role in the organisation of the event and gives an insight into what to expect for all those attending on the day.
Education and support for young footballers and families
Over the last few seasons, myself and a pool of tutors have travelled across the country to talk to academy players, parents and staff about the importance of challenging discrimination, stereotypes and underrepresentation within the game.
I’m always excited about these sessions. It’s great to be able to speak to young players, support them in their journeys away from the playing side and help them understand current issues within football. Topics of discussion focus around racism, sexism, homophobia, disability, faith and ‘banter’.
What we try and get across to them is the fact that as a young player now, you could be thrust into the limelight very quickly. So one minute you could be with your teammates doing your everyday academy routine, the next you could be a Marcus Rashford scoring the winner in the Manchester derby.
As such, it’s vital that we ensure the players are conscious of the attitudes they express from a young age so that if they do make the step up to the first team, they are prepared to be the role models that football expects them to be.
During the sessions, we do have real moments of reflection. Often you have quite a boisterous atmosphere because the environment can be much like a changing room. But when we discuss some of the rights and wrongs of their language, attitudes or even the music they listen to, you see a very thoughtful approach too.
Not a lot of people from the outside see young players being reflective and thoughtful about their actions or behaviours and for me, it’s a real positive to see the room dynamics change throughout the session.
This month I’ve visited Birmingham City, Brighton and Hove Albion, Blackpool, Stevenage, Bournemouth, Manchester United and Manchester City and I’m delighted to have the continued opportunity to make a real impact on the future stars of the game.
As an organisation, we are now affecting the game at a level where the young players are made aware that they assume the mantle of role models faster than ever before. It shows that our message is spreading and we’re giving young players a thorough grounding in understanding equality, so there can be no more room for excuses.
Raise Your Game 2016
This year’s national Raise Your Game conference at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium is almost upon us and preparations for next Tuesday’s event (19 April) have gone into overdrive.
Over the last few weeks, we have focused on ensuring that the communication with those who are attending on the day has been extensive. It’s important for us to help the mentees reflect who they are as best they can, so they can get the most out of the day and the mentors can tailor their advice to their specific wants and needs.
As a result, it’s vital that they provide us with information about their journey to date and what area of football they want to get into. That could be management and coaching, grassroots and community development, administration, media and communications or many others.
On the day, the opportunities for the mentees are brilliant – we’ll have a careers workshop delivered by Toby French from Careers in Football, media workshops with BBC’s Shelley Alexander and ITV’s Clyde Tyldesley, as well as a coaching workshop by Damian Matthew, ex-first team coach at Charlton Athletic.
So not only do the mentees get personalised one-to-one mentoring, they also attend a workshop and receive in-depth, expert advice in the field they’d like to work in.
We have had some really good stories that have come out of Raise Your Game, whether it’s people finding opportunities they would never have obtained, or continuing to have contact with their mentors who support their journey long after the conference is over. The value of that can never be underestimated for all that are involved.
One of the key objectives we hope to achieve from the day is to help, although not exclusively, people from underrepresented backgrounds within the game to have every opportunity to try and seek their dream. Football is an amazing industry to be working in, and if we can provide hope and guidance to those that are just starting that journey, we’re doing the right thing.
For me, it’s a part of the work of Kick It Out that goes under the radar far too much. Lots of people will focus on our response when there’s a high-profile incident, but what about the work we are doing to help and support football’s workforce?
This year, Manish Bhasin, BBC Sport and Premier League Productions presenter, is hosting the event while we will have an amazing amount of support from those working within the game, who give up their time for the benefit of others.
I’m immensely proud to lead the organisation on the event and firmly believe that this year will produce even more success stories, with people from across the country getting a foothold in an industry which is notoriously difficult to break into.
On the day, we will be posting photos from the event across all of our social media channels, so if you’re not coming this year, be sure to keep an eye out for our Raise Your Game coverage.
Those who are attending, make sure you use the hashtag #RYG16 when posting about it on Twitter or Instagram!
February - Amanda Craig, Professional Game Administrator
For February, Amanda Craig, Kick It Out’s Professional Game Administrator, writes about the countless hours she put into planning the organisation’s successful fundraising evening at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club.
Furthermore, Amanda discusses the delivery of the night itself, as well as the work she has coming up, including helping to coordinate the #EqualityInspires initiative and supporting the organisation’s activities with professional clubs.
On Thursday 18 February, we held a successful fundraising and awareness evening, which was the result of months of hard work and organisation (and patience!), and I’m delighted to share my experience of that period with you.
Initial discussions around the evening took place over the summer, with the decision taken that it would focus on raising awareness and funds for our Education Programme, which sees tackling prejudice and hate crime in football as a priority. Lord Herman Ouseley, Kick It Out’s Chair, has discussed the purpose of the evening in detail here.
For me, the planning for the fundraising evening began as soon as our charity golf day was over at the beginning of September. One of the first – and most important – things we had to work out how many people could attend the evening.
Chelsea were kind enough to give us a capacity as large as 500 people– a wonderful gesture from them but that meant we had to get our invitations out nice and early!
By the end of November, guests had been invited and attention turned to booking the entertainment for the evening. Lord Ouseley chose two brilliant acts to perform on the night – Ballet Black and the David Idowu Choir.
Ballet Black were seen as an appropriate choice, not only for the stunning talent within their dance company, but also because the reason they were set up is to achieve equality within classical ballet, by providing dancers and students of black and Asian descent with opportunities to perform.
Booking the David Idowu Choir felt just as fitting on an evening dedicated to tackling hate crime through Kick It Out’s Education Programme. The David Idowu Foundation was established in his memory after the 14-year-old was tragically killed in a stabbing in 2008, as he played football near his home in South London. The choir was then set up in 2011 in a bid to unite young people from different schools in a common purpose to spread the message of the foundation.
Once the performances had been booked in and we got closer to February, the biggest job was sorting the table plan. Now on the face of it, that might not seem like too difficult a task and I won’t bore you with the details, but anyone who’s planned a big event will know what a stressful challenge that is! I’ve promised my colleagues I’m never getting married but if I do, my guests can sit wherever they like…
Fortunately, there were no major hiccups in the planning process and that all led to success on the night as well. That’s testament to the small but dedicated team at Kick It Out and the staff at Chelsea who were fantastic, particularly Lauren Cotugno, who was in charge of proceedings from their end.
Guests enjoyed a delicious dinner and I think we managed to strike a great balance between education and entertainment during the evening. Lord Ouseley welcomed guests with a great speech and Labour MP Chuka Umunna and Rimla Akhtar, Chair of the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation, both joined him on stage.
Later on, Garth Crooks, one of Kick It Out’s trustees, led an insightful managers Q&A with Chris Powell, Marieanne Spacey and Chris Hughton. The two performances were excellent but I have to say, the David Idowu Choir were simply amazing – their rendition of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ had the entire hall on their feet.
From a personal perspective, I am immensely proud of how well the evening went. You have an idea in your head of how you want an event to go, or how you want the room to look, but when it comes to the night and you see your vision exactly how you wanted it, it’s an amazing feeling.
From an events management point of you, I couldn’t have asked for more but most importantly, we managed to raise some significant funds which will provide essential support for our work going forward.
Now the dinner is over my attention has returned to my normal duties, which includes helping to coordinate the #EqualityInspires scholars training that we do in Premier League academies, as well as working alongside Keeley Baptista, our Professional Game Manager, to organise our dedicated fixtures and oversee the work we do with professional clubs for their Equality Standard accreditation.
I look forward to updating you again in future!
January - Hayley Bennett, Education Officer
This month, Hayley Bennett, Kick It Out’s Education Officer, writes on the work she’s being doing for the organisation, including building relationships with young people in schools and communities, as well as preparing for Kick It Out’s fundraising evening at Stamford Bridge on Thursday 18 February.
Furthermore, Hayley has written about her efforts in recruiting ambassadors for a young people’s group, aimed at improving Kick It Out’s youth engagement and developing future leaders within the game.
As is usually the case for me at Kick It Out, it’s been a busy month with lots of different initiatives on the go!
Young people’s group
One of the key projects I’ve been working on for the organisation has been the development of our new group for young people. The recruitment process has been rigorous; we were able to interview candidates from all over the country and we’re delighted with the ambassadors we have appointed.
The establishment of the group is vital for Kick It Out because we really want to improve our relationship with young people and provide a voice for them – too often 16-25 year olds are excluded from the game when they have a wealth of ideas, knowledge and passion for the sport.
We want Kick It Out to be more youth-focused and we hope that this initiative will allow us to build up and support future leaders within football and wider society.
However, the group won’t just be mouthpieces for Kick It Out – they will be working with us on specific projects, acting as advisors and ambassadors for the organisation.
One of the group’s first tasks will be to work in partnership with the UK Youth Parliament on their recently-announced ‘Educate, Don’t Hate’ campaign, a year-long initiative which seeks to encourage and allow young people to take on the issue of hate crime, which is on the rise across the UK.
It’s an exciting initiative and a great example of the influence young people can have if given the opportunity.
Recently, I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting two schools to run workshops as part of our education programme, which seeks to strengthen Kick It Out’s engagement with young people whilst promoting our key messages of equality, inclusion and anti-discrimination.
A couple weeks ago, I visited Impington College in Cambridge where we hosted a competition with Year Nine pupils. The students were asked to produce something creative – a speech, a poem, a piece of artwork – that promoted the work and ethos of Kick It Out.
The results were brilliant and the winning piece was an amazing half-and-half drawing of Didier Drogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which you will all get a chance to see on our website soon.
Last week, I went to Brittons Academy where we have established an art project with seven students. The students will produce work that Kick It Out will use as educational resources in schools across the country to promote our core messages of equality and inclusion.
It’s really special witnessing the passion and talent of these pupils first hand – but it does remind me just how rubbish my own artwork is!
These projects come at a particularly important time of year for Kick It Out as we build up to our fundraising dinner at Stamford Bridge next month (18 February), for which our education programme is the main focus.
We’ve been running the programme for over 18 months now and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved so far.
Our workshops have managed to involve over 2700 participants in different schools and communities during that time. The programme is growing every day and we’re always getting requests from young people across the country to get involved in our work.
Nevertheless, we’re not about to slow down and pat ourselves on the back. There is always progress to be made, new communities to educate and more young people whom we can empower to spread their own messages of equality and inclusion.
Another exciting project we have coming up as part of our new education programme is one called EduKicks – a racism and discrimination course that provides an innovative approach to learning PSHE for Year Five and Year Six children.
Kick It Out has partnered up with an organisation called EduMove to deliver the unique anti-racism and discrimination education programme in primary schools across the country.
The approach to the course is underpinned by an ‘empathy in education’ model that utilises real life football-related scenarios to help pupils understand the effects of abuse to individuals and minority groups within society.
The six-week course will use a football context to encourage pupils to develop an in-depth understanding of racism and other forms of discrimination.
Football can be a truly transformational tool in educating young people on issues of discrimination and equality, as well as giving them the power to promote their own inclusion agenda, be it in their school, friendship group or wider community.
It’s an exciting time for the organisation and I look forward to seeing the results of the important work being carried out by Kick It Out with young people throughout England.
You can read more about Kick It Out’s education work here.
Official representatives and employees of professional football clubs offered their insight the internal workings of the sport.
Tony Stewart - Rotherham United Chairman
Ahead of Rotherham United’s dedicated ‘Season of Action’ fixture againist Leeds United in October 2014, club Chairman Tony Stewart, spoke exclusively to Kick It Out about the community aspect of his football club and the importance of recognising local hero Arthur Wharton.
I’m a Rotherham businessman and have been in the town for 33 years. When I was asked to pick up the mantle and have a look at Rotherham United, it was because the club had gone bust twice in 18 months and I had been informed by the council that it wasn’t being run properly. I thought I could do something with Rotherham and six years later you could say the rest is history.
There have been some difficult times along the way. I took over the club six years ago and marched the team out of Rotherham and into Sheffield. The fact we had in the region of 1,500 fans that didn’t follow us into the Don Valley Stadium was tough and to experience the vacuum in Sheffield with less fans at a running stadium was even tougher.
We always realised that the foundations were in place for our return with the spirit of the club always in Rotherham. When we returned back from exile, it was with the support of the Rotherham United Community Sports Trust (RUCST), that now works with over something like 2,000 pupils a month, which helped us integrate back home.
I inherited the RUCST when I bought the club and I didn’t realise that it effectively connects the community to the football club and that they went around the schools bringing better education to the local children. Working with the local schools is very heart-warming and it’s something I’ve strongly encouraged.
Two years ago the Trust won the Football League award for achievements in the community which were seen as exceptional and we were very proud of that. Having moved back to the town after four years away, it was important that the new ground helped us create a beacon for the people of Rotherham.
The New York Stadium attracts families that probably didn’t attend the old, run-down ground but now come along to the new stadium that is kitted out for modern purposes. When I first took over the football club I thought selfishly that it was all about getting bums on seats. Then you get into the nuts and bolts of it.
You see people in the classroom and the effect it has on young children, and how that emanates to people on the street who now wear Rotherham United shirts, and it has more meaning than just football – it is more of a community – which bonds us together.
I’ve been involved in business for a total of 43 years, but it’s only been in the past six years that I’ve got involved in the issues that surround the community, especially when it comes to education, with football acting as a conduit to access lots of things that bring people together.
One story which we’re looking to bring to people’s attention through education is that of Arthur Wharton – the first black professional footballer who played for Rotherham in the late 19th century. Not only that, he was the world record holder for the 100-yard-dash, and was a highly-talented cricketer.
Against all the adversity he faced, Arthur was inspired to not only become a champion but a superman for the black race. We believe Arthur should have a privileged position in Rotherham and that is why we have agreed to have the Arthur Wharton Statue erected at New York Stadium. For us, the statue demonstrates that regardless of difference you can change the world you live in.
Looking back, to purchase a club for three million pounds that was in ashes, to take it out of Rotherham into Sheffield and have seen the club rise into the Championship in six years, is incredible. The success on the pitch has allowed RUCST to develop more effectively and people now want to be involved with the club in all activities.
Whether it’s education or commerce, I’m very proud to have seen what we’ve able to deliver in the last six years thanks to the hard work within the community and the football club.
Matt Rowland - Notts County Ladies Marketing Manager
Ahead of Notts County Ladies’ dedicated ‘Season of Action’ match against Everton Ladies in September 2014, Matt Rowland, the club’s marketing manager, offered his insight into the first of year of professional women’s football in Nottingham and how it might impact on grassroots and community football in the area.
We’re very much looking forward to hosting a ‘Season of Action’ match this Sunday. It is the first time that we have done anything like this because it is our first season. The fact that Kick It Out is a well known name in football puts even more significance for us on the match.
I believe the women’s game has come on leaps and bounds from what it was a few years ago. We’ve got a completely different staff for the women’s team – as much as it is one club altogether we look at it from different perspectives.
I think playing in Nottingham this year has introduced a lot of people to women’s football and the feedback we have had has been very positive. People who never have watched women’s football before have now got season tickets and also attended away games as well.
There is an incredible feeling around the club. It has been a successful season off the pitch and we still hold the highest attendance for the whole league for this season and that was for our first ever league game. That clearly indicated the reaction from the city to us a sports team.
Nottingham has embraced us so well. Players have been stopped in the street and asked questions – which has never happened before. In the Notts squad, we have players who have played for teams such at this elite level her and abroad but they never had that sort of recognition before.
I think it is huge that Kick It Out highlights and raises the profile of women’s football. It shows the organisation’s recognition for the sport as much as anything else.
Kick It Out is one the most well known groups in football, certainly in terms of equality and diversity, so to recognise women’s football as it does is another platform for exposure. I believe that the organisation’s support has shown that women’s football is as important as men’s football and the equality and diversity that it stands for.
I think in some ways it shows that women footballers are more achievable role models because they’ve come from the same situation as some girls might find themselves in now, playing through their local clubs and going on through to their local centre of excellence and eventually becoming professional footballers.
With the stars of the men’s game playing for Premier League sides perhaps people think ‘I can never reach that’, whereas in Women’s football there is an element of ‘I can reach that’, because they are quite down to earth people.
A lot of the women players in the game have worked a couple of jobs just to be able to play football. Obviously it has now progressed with a bigger pool of professional footballers currently but they are very aware of that as players and they are happy to go into grassroots clubs, centres of excellence and schools and demonstrate what people need to do to get into the sport and play.
It is important that we encourage our players at Notts County to go into the community. They are now more recognisable and there is more exposure for them, and are starting to realise they are role models and seen by a lot of people as leading examples.
I think they understand it’s vital that they close the gap between themselves and the community where perhaps in the men’s game the gap is more apparent. There is also a great understanding of how important it is to get young people involved in playing football because it helps in all aspects of life from social skills to education.
One of our players I would mention for their community work is our captain Sophie Bradley, who plays for England as well.
She’s from Nottingham, which helps hugely with her work with the community showing someone from those very places that she turned out to be a professional footballer in the Women’s Super League. Sophie is very keen on going out and working within the community.
I think we’ve had a very successful first season at Notts County Ladies considering we’re a new team with new players in a new location, everything was essentially brand new. The support from everyone in Nottingham has been a part of that success as we have been welcomed by everyone as a sports team.
In a blog series exclusive to the Kick It Out website, current and former managers reflected on the challenges facing the game.
Wayne Burnett - Former Dagenham and Redbridge Manager
Former Dagenham and Redbridge manager Wayne Burnett made over 300 appearances during his playing career. Starting out at Leyton Orient, he then moved to Blackburn Rovers after being signed by Kenny Dalglish in 1992. He went on to play for Plymouth Argyle, Bolton Wanderers, Huddersfield Town, and Grimsby Town before winding his career down in non-league.
After ensuring Dagenham and Redbridge’s Football League status as caretaker manager in May 2013, Burnett was handed the job on a full-time basis. Writing for Kick It Out, Burnett covered his playing career, the two-way relationship between fans and a football club, and his motivations for being part of Kick It Out’s education programme.
Professional clubs have a massive role to play when it comes to setting the example to grassroots and community clubs. The position clubs hold should filter down to that level. I’m not trying to suggest professional clubs should be held in any higher esteem but if you’re in a position where you have an input and influence than you should use it. Certainly at Dagenham and Redbridge we try our utmost to do as much as we can because it’s important to us. I sometimes don’t feel we’re 100% aware of the impact we have and how much influence we have.
We do a lot of work within our community. Our Managing Director Steve Thompson works incredibly hard to improve relationships within the community. We give schools and local teams a chance to come in and see how it all works in order to show that we want them to feel involved with the club. Realistically, we’re not a huge club but we do hold our fans and our community very closely to us as they are a huge part of what we do. I don’t want to use the term “family club” because it’s so much more than that. We’re an open house and people don’t sometimes see how much we’re willing to show other people.
Dagenham is a very multi-cultural place and that’s good because we have lots of different views on the way things are. Debate is good and it improves us and enriches us, not just as individuals but as a club and a community. Creating a ‘why’ culture is really important and people shouldn’t always agree with us. For any organisation, the environment you create will determine whether you have success or failure.
At Dagenham, we have an anti-racism day each season which comes with a strong message. Our fan base is a very diverse one and we have lots of different groups coming to our games. Clubs have a public perception and a reputation and I think ours is portrayed as a community club. That hasn’t happened overnight. We’ve worked on our image and our relationship with our fans. That relationship between us and our fans is a very intimate one. We regularly have open meetings with our fans and I think you lose that intimacy at a ‘top’ club. Without that relationship, I feel you lose a little bit from that.
That part of my background comes from my playing career. I always embraced the clubs and communities that I represented, really enjoying exploring the country and how other people live. Sometimes people would be very welcoming and there would be resistance occasionally, which I guess is the same everywhere, but I fully bought into the communities I was part of and I think that’s really important to do. I think if we all showed a bit of humility and respect, we’d all be able to get along a lot better.
Along the way, I was fortunate to play and learn from many different managers and players who went on to become managers. I wouldn’t be able to name any one person as a stronger influence than another because there were so many but I’m really pleased to pick up a little bit from each one. One thing I picked up very quickly is that I realise I’m in a fortunate position. I’m doing something I really enjoy. I love my job.
I am mindful of my position and I fully respect the role of a football manager. That’s one reason I want to help with Kick It Out’s education programme and to push their message out to a wider audience. I’ve been in football for a long time as a player and a coach but I’m also a parent and I’m aware of the influence I can have on young people. I want to give something back by showing the importance of the input that coaches can have on young players.
Chris Powell - Former Charlton manager
Former Charlton Manager, Chris Powell, reflects on achieving his UEFA Pro License in June 2014.
It’s been a good summer. After 18 months of hard work, I finally gained my UEFA Pro Licence and became a fully qualified coach in June. I don’t think there is much more studying I can do now!
I will always look back on that achievement with real pride as I was part of the first cohort to pass the Pro Licence at St George’s Park – which is fast becoming known as the home of football coaching and learning.
I shared the journey to getting the Pro Licence with a diverse group who all had a real love for the game. Some had played at the highest level, and others had spent time coaching abroad and in the lower leagues.
Ryan Giggs, Paul Ince, Gary Neville, Micky Mellon, Wayne Burnett, Stephane Henchoz, Graham Kavanagh, Lois Fidler – only the third woman to pass the Pro Licence – and Alex Dyer and Nathan Jones – who were both on my staff at Charlton Athletic – were just a number of those on the course.
There were some tough times, and sacrifices had to be made (including having to turn down a trip to the World Cup in Brazil!), but we all pulled each other through. I had to balance my studies with managing Charlton and thankfully John Peacock, the course director, was terrific and understood my day-to-day duties had to take priority.
There was one occasion where I had to travel to Middlesbrough on the Friday by train before getting the coach back after our match on the Saturday evening. I arrived home just gone midnight and then had to drive to St George’s Park at 5:30am the next morning for a full day’s study from 9am-7pm.
We then had another 9am-7pm schedule on Monday before finishing up with a 9am-2pm session on Tuesday. From there, I had to drive directly to Oxford United where we had an FA Cup Third Round replay. So I briefly saw my home for about five hours from Friday right up until late Tuesday night!
It needed to be done and we organised everything in advance for my staff and the players. It was just one of those things that you have to do. Sometimes you have to make the odd sacrifice to make sure you come out the other end with what you’re looking for.
Shortly after leaving Charlton and separate from my studies, I had the pleasure of helping coach England Under-17s. It came out of the blue after I was very kindly asked by John Peacock and Kenny Swain, and I helped them out during the qualifying stages for the European Championships which the team went on to win in Malta in May.
Sadly, I couldn’t get out there for it so I had to watch it on Eurosport. I jumped up for joy when they won the final against the Netherlands on penalties! I can tell you that they actually practiced penalties for 21 days after every training session to prepare themselves for the possibility. I was really proud of them when they managed to win it.
Now I’ve got the Pro Licence I’m qualified to do any management job in this country or any other league in the world. I’m ready and raring to go again, and watching on this pre-season has given me that extra eagerness to get back to management.
I know I can manage, I know I can coach and I was successful during my time at Charlton. It was such a great experience for me, and I departed from the club through no fault of my own. It’s now about me making the same impression somewhere else when the opportunity arises.
There are a lot of good managers and coaches that aren’t working at the minute so you have to be ready when the chance comes to get yourself back in. I am keeping myself fit and healthy so that if an interview comes, I can prove that I am the man for the job.
There is a lot of discussion around the possibility of creating an equivalent to the Rooney Rule to address the lack of black and minority ethnic coaches and managers, and I understand all that entails. For me, getting your badges and becoming as qualified as you can be is crucial.
I think if you get all the qualifications then people can’t exactly say – which is an easy get out – ‘you’re not qualified to do this job’. If you’re turned down because you didn’t interview correctly then that’s fine.
It’s about being able to secure those interviews in the first place, then it is down to you to present yourself as the right person to lead the team and take the football club onto a bigger and brighter future.
You never know where this game may take you and I am very open to potential opportunities which may come up overseas. People love English football across the world but I think we should do it more than we do when it comes to our coaches looking further afield for jobs.
In life sometimes you have to take a different turn from the journey that you’re on. It may just be that you take an alternate route to the path you always thought you were going to go on, but if the opportunity is progressive and you feel it is right, why not enjoy that experience?
Who knows what will happen? Hopefully we’ll see where the next chapter is for me as a manager and coach very soon. I’ve had a summer at home and it’s been enlightening as I haven’t had a pre-season off since 1986 – let’s just hope it doesn’t last until this time next year though!
In another blog series exclusive to the organisation, professional and semi-professional and former players offered their unique thoughts on football.
Dan Burn - Wigan Athletic defender
Dan Burn is a former Fulham defender who currently plays for Wigan Athletic.
During his time at Fulham, Dan attended one of the club’s Kicks Social Inclusion sessions in Tolworth, refereeing a five-a-side game, taking part in a Q&A session and getting to know the young people participating in the event.
Writing exclusively for Kick It Out ahead of Fulham’s televised Season of Action game, Dan discussed the importance of a club giving back to their community, his influences within football and his personal goals for the rest of the season.
As footballers, it’s great to be able to contribute to our community so events like working with the Fulham FC Foundation in Tolworth are really important. It allows us to give something back to our local area and being at Fulham, we do a lot of community events and it’s great that we give back so much.
In my view the work of Kick It Out is hugely important at the upper levels of the game. Elite players, particularly those in the Premier League, are role models for young people and in influencing them as they move up through age grades, we can really make a difference. I think Kick It Out should work with the top level because it’s what young people see first normally.
With that said, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to other races and cultures when I was growing up in the North-East. The school I went to was all-white and even playing for Darlington, our team was all-white. It was only when I went to Fulham and out on loan that I had a lot more exposure to Kick It Out and to new cultures and nationalities.
Our dressing room is a wide mix of nationalities but one thing I have found is that football is a universal sport and on the pitch, not speaking the same language isn’t too much of a barrier. In England especially it can be a bit of an issue off the field but it’s all about embracing the different cultures that we come across. The events we do for the Foundation and Kick It Out give us exposure, as well as to the young people we meet.
I’ve had a lot of influences throughout my career. All of my youth team coaches had some input into my development but people like Craig Liddle helped me come on leaps and bounds and I owe a lot to him.
The loan system has been good to me and allowed me to get where I am now, but it was Rene Meulensteen who gave me my Fulham debut, building on the time Kit Symons spent with me in the Under 21’s team, helping me to keep my head down and work towards the first team.
The fans always deliver a great atmosphere at Craven Cottage and there are more London derbies in the Championship than there are in the Premier League. I think it’s a good thing for London’s football clubs as we all benefit.
My own personal goal last season after being loaned out was to get a full Championship season under my belt. Luckily I was loaned back and played Premier League football quite early. We shouldn’t be anywhere near the position we’re in with the squad that we have, but we’re looking to kick on. The Championship is a league where if you get a few wins, you can fly up the table.
Matt Green - Mansfield Town defender
Matt Green started his career in non-league football at Newport County, before turning out for the likes of Cardiff City, Torquay United, Mansfield Town and Birmingham City, returning to Mansfield in the summer of 2015.
Whilst at Birmingham, Matt represented the club at an event in January 2014 with Small Heath school, judging entries to an art competition.
Matt took some time to write for Kick It Out about the organisation and his journey through non-league to the Championship.
Kick It Out is hugely important in making everyone aware of the situation with all kinds of abuse and showing that it is not to be tolerated or accepted in football or society. I’ve always tried to help where I can, going to schools in the local area and being a judge for poetry competitions or other creative contests.
Everyone should be aware of the job that Kick It Out does, not just through reported incidents, but also through the help and support Kick It Out offers to clubs and players.
My background is different to a lot of players as I came through non-league, rather than an academy. Kick It Out’s involvement at that level is crucial.
Non league football is quite rough and ready and it acts as a really good platform for players to learn their trade. For some, it acts as their first exposure to Kick It Out and that continues as these players move up the leagues.
I’ve had a lot of influences throughout my career. At non-league level, all my managers backed me and allowed me to express myself as a young professional. I still keep in touch with a lot of my old teammates and there’s a lot of mutual respect between me and my old managers.
All of them would take any incidents of discrimination seriously and they’d expect the player or club to respond in the correct manner to get it sorted.
For me, other than the odd, isolated comment I’ve never had any trouble but I know what I would do if I wanted to take that situation further with Kick It Out being the first point of contact. Maybe that’s the challenge for the future.
If a situation occurs, it’s getting people 100% comfortable with reporting and those procedures.
Everyone who walks on the pitch on a Saturday is equal. It’s important to remember that, regardless of the level you play at.