A host of footballing greats recently turned out to celebrate 10 years of anti-racist campaigning in the UK by FARE partner, Football Unites, Racism Divides. The sit down dinner event, kindly hosted by Sheffield United Football Club, highlighted some of the project’s fantastic achievements and the contribution made by people who have assisted it.
The evening was compered by two up-and-coming BBC Radio presenters Jay and Sam, along with Piara Powar, director of the UK’s Kick It Out anti-racism campaign. Guests were formally welcomed with speeches from the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor Roger Davison; Sheffield United’s vice-chairman Terry Robinson; and UK Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn MP.
Star studded dinner
150 guests attended the dinner, including several pioneering black footballers. Brendon Batson, now a consultant with the Football Association, Luther Blissett, Gary Bennett, Ces Podd, and United’s own Tony Agana and Trenton Wiggan; were all delighted to attend such a worthy cause. They were joined by current Blades stars Paul Ifill, Alan Quinn and Jonathan Forte. Sheffield Wednesday FC’s director Ken Cooke and Community Manager Julian Winter, both put aside locally football club rivalries to show their support for the campaign.
Light entertainment was provided by the football poetry group, Chantwriters, followed by a live musical performance from Hangin’ on to Harry featuring Frank Clark, Nottingham Forest’s European Cup-winning player and now vice-chair of the League Managers’ Association.
Awards, sponsored by the Professional Footballers’ Association, were presented to people who’ve been instrumental in Football Unites’ work over the years. Created by football artist Collin Yates, the awards took the form of framed prints of Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer. Many volunteers received the prints, together with Brendon Batson and Arthur Wharton’s great-granddaughter, Sheila Leeson who were both recognised for their contributions towards tackling racism in football nationally. Sheffield Wednesday’s Julian Winter and United’s Andy Pack were thanked for their support of anti-racist work at their respective clubs.
Howard Holmes, coordinator at Football Unites commented,
“It was really heart warming to see so many people lend their support to the campaign to rid football of racism. The number of high-profile guests who attended showed how much the project has achieved since its early days when it had to battle to overcome cynicism that such an initiative was necessary. Recent incidents have shown that the campaign is every bit as important now as it was 10 years ago.”