Britain’s first black female football pioneer to be celebrated at London event as part of #FootballPeople weeks

The life of Emma Clarke, Britain’s first black female football pioneer, will be celebrated at an event at The Royal Society of Arts on Tuesday October 30th as part of the 2018 #FootballPeople weeks.

An exciting panel of black cultural commentators will gather to celebrate Black History Month 2018 and commemorate Clarke's life and story, which has rather remarkably only come to light in recent years.

A contemporary of the world’s first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton, Emma’s status as a professional footballer, playing in one of Britain’s earliest women’s football matches in 1895 attended by thousands of paying spectators, is hugely significant.

Clarke travelled the country accompanied by widespread media coverage, demonstrating the profile she would have enjoyed in the 1890s. But while her male contemporaries are championed as global icons with statues, TV dramas and fame, Emma’s life slipped into obscurity.

The pioneers of women’s sport remain almost invisible in the public landscape:

  • Less than 1% of sporting statues in the UK are of named individual sportswomen (Source: The Sporting Statues Project)
  • There are no sporting statues of women of colour or Paralympians
  • Only two sportswomen are celebrated as part of English Heritage’s Blue Plaque scheme

One of the aims of this event is to share Emma’s story more widely with schools, football governing bodies, policy makers and academic institutions in the hope of creating a greater platform for her history.

The unique event, co-curated by sports diversity consultant and activist Michelle Moore and sports writer and campaigner Anna Kessel MBE, is funded with an event grant from The Fare network and is part of the #FootballPeople action weeks - a global campaign to tackle discrimination and celebrate diversity in football. This event is supported by The Runnymede Trust, Women in Football and the Blue Plaque Rebellion.

Panellists will include broadcaster and author Emma Dabiri, Grenfell campaigner and Tottenham Hotspur Ladies footballer Eartha Pond and Gal-Dem deputy editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff. Actor Tanya Loretta Dee will bring Emma Clarke’s story to life with a live performance from Hollie McNish and Sabrina Mahfouz’s acclaimed hit play ‘Offside’.

Emma Clarke, a brief biography

Emma Clarke was born in Liverpool in 1876. A confectioner’s apprentice, she likely grew up playing football on the streets of Bootle. Aged just 19, Emma made her professional debut for the British Ladies team in 1895, in London’s Crouch End, in front of a crowd of 11,000 in a match covered by the mainstream media. Emma also had two sisters, and it is believed that they joined her on Mrs Graham’s XI tour of Scotland the following year.

In the 1890’s interest in women playing football was high and thousands of spectators attended matches, prompting widespread press coverage. Sadly there are no known interviews with Emma, but the coming to light of her existence – through the work of historian Stuart Gibbs - is a big moment for the game. While pioneers such as Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer, and Walter Tull, have been celebrated in recent years, the story of Emma Clarke – a contemporary of Wharton – is only just being discovered.


Michelle Moore is an award-winning consultant, educator, strategist and former athlete with over a decade of experience leading initiatives at the intersection of sport and social change. Michelle is an expert in inclusive leadership, strategic partnerships, education and innovation supporting her national and global clients to become high performing.

Anna Kessel MBE - Anna is a sports journalist, acclaimed author and vocal campaigner on equality in sport. Anna has covered Olympic Games and World Championships, and interviewed some of the biggest stars in global sport. A rare female voice in her field, Anna wrote Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Your Life (Macmillan, 2016), a passionate manifesto aimed at bringing sport to the female masses. She is also a co-founder of Women in Football (WiF), an organisation lobbying against sexism in the game.

The Fare network #FootballPeople week is a global campaign to tackle discrimination and celebrate diversity in football. For two weeks in October (11th-25th) over 10,000 people take part in 2,000 events across 60 countries to bring about positive social change in and through football. FARE grants fund outstanding events or gatherings that address and discuss topics in relation to football and discrimination and/or social inclusion.

To book your free ticket for the event follow the link here

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