Paul Elliott: Our sport has a role and an ability like no other to unite communities

Friday 05 Jun 2020
Paul Elliott CBE, speaking in his role as chair of The FA's Inclusion Advisory Board

It’s been an extraordinary week. Following the tragic death of George Floyd, issues of social, racial injustice and racial inequality have dominated our mindsets and galvanised people from all walks of life.

I am personally saddened by the countless innocent lives lost, which has triggered an outpouring of anger in the United States and, indeed, here in England and across the world. Many people from all backgrounds – in particular the black community in this country – are left asking questions about their identity and how much their lives are worth.

I am, though, encouraged by the allegiance shown in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In this tragic adversity we must unite to find solutions in addressing inequalities that many people feel.

Everyone has the fundamental human right to live, work and enjoy their lives free from prejudice, racism and discrimination. That has not always been the case in football. The FA has evolved hugely as an organisation with inclusion and diversity now at the heart of our values but we, like so many, have so much more to do. The struggle for justice and equality never stops.

In my role as chair of The FA’s Inclusion Advisory board, I spoke recently about my pride in how the organisation is leading change by being proactive, by demonstrating strong leadership and responding to the 21st-century challenges we all face together – from the touchline to the boardroom.

Our sport has a role and an ability like no other to unite communities. George Floyd’s death has compelled us all to stop, think and reflect on our intentions and actions, and consider what more we need do to bring our football community together in these challenging times.

We saw many footballers and football fans take part in Tuesday’s social media blackout, which felt like a contrast to the beautiful colours of the rainbow emblems posted in support of our key workers over the last three months since the outbreak of COVID-19. Those rainbows could, of course, also be seen as a representation of the diversity that makes up the population of our whole world.

COVID-19 has proven beyond doubt we must do more to tackle the health and social inequality in our communities. We now know there have been a disproportionately-high number of deaths from the virus in the BAME community and consequently those people are more at risk from the disease. Equality of opportunities, cohesion, anti-discrimination and tackling racism are more relevant than ever.

As our world emerges into a ‘new normal’ I hope that equality, inclusion and social justice will be at the very heart of this change – and remain at the centre of everything we do at The FA.

By Paul Elliott Chair, FA Inclusion Advisory Board