Kick It Out is celebrating its 30th anniversary today, so we spoke to three people at The FA to discuss how it has been instrumental in helping to tackle all forms of discrimination and why we are proud to be its partner as we strive for an inclusive and diverse game for all.
Paul Elliott was one of the co-founders of Kick It Out back in 1993 while playing for Chelsea and worked for the organisation as a trustee and ambassador for the best part of 20 years. He went on to become Chairman of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board, leading on our equality, diversity and inclusion work and was also an FA Council member.
Emma Jenks is the FA’s Women’s Talent Manager. After working in the women’s game for ten years, she joined the FA in 2014 and looks after the talent system in the women’s and girls’ game, with the goal of producing players for the England national team and also ensuring we have players in the academy system and player pathway who are ready for the demands of the domestic game.
Jobi McAnuff is another former Premier League footballer and a Jamaica international who enjoyed a professional career spanning more than 20 years. In May 2022 he joined the FA Board as an Independent Non-Executive Director, which came a month after he had received the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award at the 2021-22 EFL Awards, which is awarded to players who have had an outstanding career and contributed an exceptional amount to the EFL and wider football.
After I joined Chelsea in 1991, I fortuitously met Lord Herman Ouseley, who was on the commission for racial equality, an independent, non-governmental group that had the mandate to really look at all the issues of racial prejudice and inequality.
He looked at players like me, John Fashanu, Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson, to name a few, and said 'My goodness, you guys are getting a scale of racial abuse that's totally unacceptable and inappropriate. We have to try and do something.’
He thought more broadly about needing to do something different to what had ever been done before. It was a ground-breaking initiative.
This was the first time that somebody of significance and influence had reached out to me, saying, 'Paul, we have to do something. Football is the most powerful sport in the world. Look at the suffering of the first generation. We have to stop this or try to do something about it to correct the issue’.
From my standpoint, I had never heard such empowerment or encouragement. Even though I had gone on to become Chelsea’s first black captain, my understanding that it was just a part of society, I thought, 'Well, this is just the norm.' But Lord Herman Ouseley said, 'Paul, this is not the norm. This should not be happening in any working environment, let alone the greatest and most celebrated sport in the world. We have to start to do something’.
So I ended up being one of the co-founders of Kick It Out, serving as a trustee for a number of years and an ambassador for the best part of 20 years.
Kick It Out is now celebrating its 30th anniversary and that has been a wonderful thing about it because it's had longevity and sustainability. Who would have thought from when we co-founded it 30 years ago, that 30 years later it would be positively evolving and modernising itself for the 21st-century challenges?
Initially, it was just about the black players who were receiving abuse. Now the organisation is more aligned and more attuned to understanding the wider protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act, such as homophobia, anti-Semitism, discrimination due to gender, LGBTQI+ people and people with disabilities. It has modernised and embedded it into their modelling moving forward.
Kick It Out mark their 30th anniversary today and throughout those years they have been instrumental in helping to tackle all forms of discrimination in our game.— The FA (@FA) August 8, 2023
We are proud to be their partner as we strive for an inclusive and diverse game for all. https://t.co/hvd7z6VHub
Another huge problem now is online abuse, which just wasn’t an issue back then. Kick It Out is advocating for change with the Online Safety Bill, which is a new legislative framework that we're working on in a collaborative way to get that bill in place.
If you saw what happened in the EUROs with Marcus Rashford and the other players, it was terrible, horrific. Such incidents should not be able to happen, whether that is abuse towards women, people with disabilities or anyone. That's the next big challenge.
That's where I've seen the whole modernisation and evolution of Kick It Out because these are the 21st-century challenges. It now has a campaigning model that's from the top down but also from the grassroots up to ensure that EDI – equality, diversity and inclusion – is embedded in every facet of the game, from grassroots all the way through the structure to the boardroom. That's why I think Kick It Out has had a positive evolution.
Kick It Out for me personally, it's a way of life. It's a culture. It's embedded in everything that I do and I think about.
Football is the most powerful sport in the world. It can unite, break down barriers, and bring people together like no other. And we've seen that. I said it at the time, 30 years ago, because I believed it and it's been more evident now, especially when you look at the diversity of all our clubs across the UK and you look at the diversity of the England team.
As well as the online issues, the next challenge is to transition from the issues on the field and within the stadiums, to then having structural senior leadership, extended leadership, middle management, to have more coaches who are women and people from an ethnically diverse background, for example. They are the 21st-century challenges that I think football is now acutely aware of. They're acutely aware of that. We have the data to show that now.
I just feel very lucky to have been there at the start of Kick It Out and still be involved with tackling those challenges now as it remains central to my work with the FA and UEFA.
I've been involved in the FA talent system in the women’s game for almost ten years now and what we strive for is that the players coming through the system are representative of the community they come from. So, the work that Kick It Out does really makes that a tangible possibility both in terms of role models, and in terms of the work that they're able to do.
For example, it enhances what we're trying to do on the ground through our programs likes Discover My Talent. This program is about ensuring that any girl with talent, regardless of their ethnicity, their background or the community that they are from, has the opportunity to be seen, to thrive, and is able to develop that talent within the pathway.
Equally, our Emerging Talent Centres program in the domestic game is all about widening access for young players. We have 75 centres that are striving to be representative of communities across England and are ensuring that talented girls all have the opportunity to attend a centre within one hour of where they live.
I'm a woman in football and I guess when I started with the FA, that was still relatively uncommon.
But even back when I joined the FA, I was fortunate to be part of the FA's female mentoring program at the time. It was about supporting aspiring and talented female coaches to get involved in the game at that level. That was back in the days of Brent Hills and Hope Powell, who were real advocates for females in the women's game.
Programs like that and more recently, the work that the organisation does around the 'Elite Coach Placement Programs' and the 'Coaching Excellence Initiatives' - these are all positive action initiatives which are all about driving diversity and having a representative game.
The work that 'Kick It Out' does absolutely talks to and works hand in hand with what we're trying to achieve within the talent pathway. It's about better opportunity, better access, better inclusion for our future players.
Just a couple of months ago we met with Kick It Out at Wembley to talk about our strategies around our talent system and how we're trying to align really on the work that we do around opportunity, access, and inclusion for young girls in the system.
One of the things we always talk about is that we know what some of the challenges are, but one of the big things that we are making great progress with is around 'If you can see, you can be it'.
In the past, there haven't always been enough of those role models in the women's game for young girls to aspire to. Now, we have a platform with our senior women’s team, and the success that they're bringing, to really showcase some of those role models.
So young girls, whatever community, whatever background, and whatever ethnic group they are from, they actually feel there's a place for them. That they want to play for their club or for England in the future, and there's actually a trodden path for those girls to be able to follow in the footsteps.
We want there to be those role models and those messages that we want to continually ensure that future generations can see a way through.
Of course, we would like to continue to grow that relationship with Kick It Out and to do more. We're absolutely aligned in how we work and as part of our new girls' pathway, we've had many conversations with Kick It Out to try to ensure that we are aligned and that we're working together to try to address some of those common goals.
Obviously, early on in my career, we were made very aware of Kick It Out as a supportive body for anti-discrimination and certainly, from a player's perspective, they've always been an ally, an organisation that players felt they could get support from and turn to in situations that unfortunately do occur and continue to occur today.
For a player who had suffered abuse, knowing there was an organisation out there to highlight what had happened and try to do something about it was certainly very important.
When I first started playing, we didn't have as much exposure to discrimination from social media, which is where there's a huge amount of negativity and issues occur currently. It was more to do with incidents in the games themselves. So Kick It Out being there and visible was important.
I know (Kick It Out’s head of player engagement) Troy Townsend very well. I know how passionate he has been throughout his time at Kick It Out and the large role he's played in driving things on, not just around racism, but other types of discrimination, which, unfortunately, still occur today.
It is incredibly important to have an independent body that is prepared to call out incidents, not just those that happen to individual players, but to ask questions about organisations and make sure that we're all doing everything we can in order to try to tackle something that we all wish we could eradicate from the game.
It's about having a collective responsibility to the game as a whole and really coming together. Communication is a huge part of that, but also, the fact they've got genuine experience of dealing with these issues first-hand.
Their interaction with all representatives in the game is absolutely key in terms of dealing with these incidents. It's about bringing together all the stakeholders in the game to try and get to a better place than we have been previously and still are in today.
There's still an awful amount of work to do, and I think only by having open communication and helping advise each other will we ever get to a point where we're on the same page, and Kick It Out is certainly a critical part of that process.
I think Kick It Out needs to continue the incredible work they have done, being a voice and being a leader in that particular area of the game.
We need to make sure that we are very much on the front foot in terms of dealing with discrimination and Kick It Out' has always been proactive, and I'm sure it will continue to do that.