The legacy of trailblazers such as Arthur Wharton, Walter Tull, Albert Johanneson and Clyde Best paved the way for future generations of black footballers.
During the 1970’s and 80’s, professional football in England was not a comfortable environment to be in with black players and supporters on the receiving end of all sorts of vile racist abuse.
‘It was a lot easier for me than, say Laurie Cunningham or Cyrille Regis. They were flamboyant forwards so they were identified much more. Cyrille got a bullet through the post with the message: ‘This one's for you if you play for England’.’
‘My first away game for West Brom was at Newcastle and Laurie Cunningham and I both scored in a 3-1 win. You could almost hear people thinking, ‘Where have they come from?’ It was a constant noise, booing and monkey chants rather than individual shouts of abuse, but it soon became the norm.’
‘The racist abuse from some football fans in the early days can only be described as horrendous. What many of them didn't understand then was how their bigotry became my greatest motivating force to succeed. Being the best I could be was partly in response to racist abuse. In those days the football pitch was the only place I could express myself. I was in control and no one could do anything about it and the freedom that came with it was exhilarating.’
‘I didn't want to come out on the pitch. I would warm up inside the changing room and go out just before. I hated being a substitute. When I warmed up it was ‘sit down you n-----’. At the old Stamford Bridge I used to stay behind the goal. It was a long way to the crowd at the old ground.’
Lord Herman Ouseley, Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, decided to act upon this after becoming so alarmed at the torrent of abuse faced by black players and supporters at football grounds up and down the country.
‘By about 1984, I had the opportunity to try and do something with the Greater London Council. It had just declared ‘London Against Racism’ as an all-year campaign and I attempted then to get football clubs interested in tackling the issue without any success. Then, when I became chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality in 1993, I saw another chance to make it happen.’
Lord Herman Ouseley, Kick It Out chairRead the full article >
1993 marked the beginning of the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign as it was officially launched by the Commission for Racial Equality and Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). Comprising an eight-point plan of action, the initiative received the backing of all but one professional club.
‘We want to send a message to reluctant black supporters. At the moment you're still likely to feel intimidated. I'm not sure, though, that black people will ever come in vast numbers. It isn't in their background, and it's taking time for the game to filter through.’
Brendon Batson, then PFA deputy chief executiveRead the full article >
‘At an early stage, I was discussing what was going to be on the poster and I said, off the cuff, OK, we'll have the main header in due course, but here it's going to say something like ‘Let's Kick Racism Out of Football’, and Louise Ansari, the CRE's Campaigns Organiser, snapped her fingers, and said, ‘What a great slogan’.’
Louis Mackay, Let's Kick Racism Out of Football logo designerRead the full article >
‘I've been very lucky to have a chairman and a managing director to whom colour doesn't matter. We've had a lot of support from the local council. It's a liberal-minded club. The fact that I am black is immaterial. I must have been the best person to have applied for the job, or otherwise I wouldn't have got it.’
Keith Alexander on becoming first full-time black manager in Football League in 1993
‘I didn't realise how I had effected so many people, not just in the football world, but kids who were struggling in life and had said I was an inspiration because it had changed their mindset on what they wanted to do in life and how they wanted to be successful.’
Paul Ince on becoming first black captain of England in 1993
Some of the game’s biggest names began to support the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign and backed the organisation through television adverts. Manchester United striker Eric Cantona, a victim of discrimination in a high-profile match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in 1995, was one of the players to lend his voice alongside Les Ferdinand.
The ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign changes its name to Kick It Out in 1997 as The Football Association (FA), Premier League, Football Foundation and PFA fund the organisation. On being formally constituted, Ben Tegg and Piara Powar became Kick It Out's first two members of staff.
‘There was no occasion, no fanfare. Just the two of us in an office in the Business Design Centre, Islington. The first thing we did was write to all 92 professional clubs introducing who we were, and what we aimed to do, and that we were now being backed by the game's governing bodies. We got five replies.
‘My first international kit was an extra large men's kit, it was ridiculous. I was a little 17-year-old kid and I didn't care that you couldn't see any part of me, it was a big kit. I was astounded I got one cap and if I never played again then it would have been fantastic to get just that one cap.’
Rachel Yankey on gaining her first full international cap for England Women in 1997
‘I think I experienced every emotion. I was overwhelmed at first. It was very exciting but a bit scary too. Then I thought ‘this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I've got to do it’. Being young, female and black I knew I could be a positive role model and wanted to succeed for everyone else as well as myself.’
Hope Powell on being appointed England Women’s manager in 1998
The government’s Football Task Force releases its ‘Eliminating Racism from Football’ report in 1998 containing submissions from Kick It Out. One observation from the campaign suggests that ‘non-white’ faces are few and far between in ‘shop-front’ positions in football clubs.Read the full report >
‘For individuals a little different from the crowd, professional football can be a cruelly insular world, and while sensitivity does exist in the macho environment of dressing room, practice pitch and bar, often it is well advised to keep its head down. Justin Fashanu was very different: he was gay and he admitted it, a combination with which, it seemed, many people within the English national game could not cope.’
Ivan Ponting for the IndependentRead the full article >
Now an established group, Kick It Out developed its first 'Week of Action' in 2001 for professional clubs and grassroots projects to take a unified stand against discrimination. Soon becoming a prime feature in the footballing calendar, the initiative was supported by all clubs and had started to generate a lot of awareness about the campaign's work.
To help promote Kick It Out’s message to a wider audience, the campaign teamed up with M&C Saatchi, an international advertising agency, in 2002 to produce a commercial constructed around a poem called ‘Dear White Fella’. Narrated by its author, Benjamin Zephaniah, the film follows the life-stages of a football-loving black person from babyhood to the moment his ashes are scattered on his team's pitch.
Kick It Out introduced one of its key policies, the Racial Equality standard, which challenged clubs to look at their procedures relating to racial equality, in 2004. This was eventually developed into the Equality Standard in 2009.
Continuing to strive to accommodate people from all backgrounds and communities, Kick It Out launched the ‘Unity Cup’, a national 7-a-side football tournament, in 2003 to engage and work with refugees and asylum seekers across Britain to overcome exclusion and build confidence.
‘My debut at Anfield was a great feeling. Years of hard work and sacrifices had gone into reaching that milestone. To make my debut at a ground with so much history and tradition was special and something that I will always remember and cherish.’
Zesh Rehman on becoming first British Asian ever to play in the Premier League in 2004
Former Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion manager Ron Atkinson resigned from his role as an ITV football pundit in 2004 after racist comments made about Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly came back to the UK having been broadcast in the Middle East.
A month later, Spain fans racially abused England's black players during the Under-21s and senior international friendlies which took place in Alcala and Madrid respectively. FIFA later fined the Spanish Football Federation £44,750.
A depressing throwback was offered in Europe when Spain coach Luis Aragones was filmed using a racist slur to Jose Antonio Reyes about his Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry in October 2004. The Spanish Football Federation fined Aragones just £2,060 after being put under pressure by the country's anti-violence commission to act.
The racist incidents encountered in Europe had proved there was no room for complacency. Continuing to branch out into tackling other forms of discrimination, Kick It Out was actively calling for greater education around these issues. This was a stance supported across the board.
To protest against continuing issues with racism in the game highlighted the year previous, Thierry Henry teamed up with fellow professionals, including Rio Ferdinand and Ronaldinho, in 2005 to front a Nike campaign called ‘Stand Up, Speak Up’, which saw two interlocked wristbands, one black, one white, worn by players all over Europe.
The ‘Week of Action’ was relaunched as the ‘One Game, One Community weeks of action’ in 2007 as the initiative continued to act as a focal point for players, managers, fans, grassroots teams, community groups and schools to join together and celebrate football’s ability to unite people from all walks of life.
Paul Ince became the first British-born black manager to lift a trophy and then manage in the Premier League. He led MK Dons to a silverware double before taking charge of Blackburn Rovers in the top-flight.
A number of key high-profile incidents saw the spotlight shone firmly on Kick It Out and football’s anti-racism agenda more than ever before. During this time, innovative campaigns were developed to tackle a wide range of issues.
In 2011, Premier League lineswoman Sian Massey was on the receiving end of sexist comments made by Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray which led to them both leaving the company.
‘She's brilliant. She never gets anything wrong.’
In what was a watershed development, both John Terry and Luis Suarez were accused and eventually convicted of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand and Patrice Evra respectively. Whilst acknowledging huge strides had been made in the battle against discrimination, the Terry and Suarez cases proved there was still work to be done.
‘Every word uttered by Terry and Suárez has been dissected, disputed and debated by barristers and barrack-room lawyers alike, but the net result has been division. The corrosive impact of the incidents should not be underestimated. The human toll is real, though insufficiently acknowledged, and can be measured in the death threats and abuse received by the Ferdinand family in all manner of media.’
Paul Kelso for the Daily TelegraphRead the full article >
Individual players decided to show their discontent at what they believed to be a lack of progress in tackling racism by refusing to wear the campaign’s t-shirts during its One Game, One Community weeks of action in 2011.
‘It was done as a personal choice. I haven't spoken to anybody and told them to wear one or not wear one. It was just my own personal viewpoint on it. The desired effect? Well I think people are talking about it now. I'm very passionate about the issue and getting to a place where we can move forward on this together.’
Jason Roberts, Reading strikerRead the full article >
Kick It Out has been marking its 20th anniversary by launching a number of key initiatives. Showing a real signal of intent for the future, the campaign has embraced new technologies and the next generation of football stars to take the fight against discrimination onto the next level.
Yet the year began with a high-profile incident on the continent leading to AC Milan midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng taking the unprecedented step of walking off the pitch after he was racially abused in a friendly match against Pro Patria. His actions resulted in him being asked to join an anti-racism task force set up by FIFA in light of the incident.
In July, leading players, campaigners and administrators were recruited for three separate focus groups helping to shape Kick It Out’s future work. The Professional Player, Professional Game and Grassroots Guidance Groups will work closely with the staff team and trustees to advise on current issues pertaining to these areas.Read the full article >
Helping to mark the beginning of the ‘Season of Action’, Kick It Out released a free downloadable app to support its other reporting functions. The app provides fans with a quick, straight-forward and confidential way of reporting incidents of discrimination.
‘Reporting is a critical part of our work. We launched a fans consultation last year with the Football Supporters’ Federation and 49% of those surveyed said they still weren’t sure of how to report. For people attending games that may hear discrimination, the Kick It Out app allows them to report right away, alerting the safety officer in the stadium and the football authorities.’
Roisin Wood, Kick It Out directorWatch the full interview >
‘Our football family is fully aware that what is reported in the media is actually less than 1% of the incidents that happen around the world. We've got to take action so that when we look to the next 20 or 50 years this will be the defining time that we took action against racism and discrimination.’
Jeffrey Webb, head of FIFA's anti-racism task forceRead the full article >
Replacing its One Game, One Community weeks of action which traditionally fell in October, Kick It Out launched its inaugural ‘Season of Action’ at the beginning of August. Running through to May 2014, the season’s worth of events is acknowledging the wealth of groups and individuals supporting this work in their own communities over the past two decades.Read the full article >
‘It is a massive honour for me to be an ambassador for Kick It Out. I want to use my profile to be a role model for young children, particularly females, who want to make it in football. I love getting involved and want to do everything I can to help raise awareness.’
Toni Duggan, Manchester City Women’s strikerWatch the video >