The Trailblazers project is a celebration of the rich diversity of players in British football – past, present and future. Trailblazers guides Premier League academy players and members of the Premier League Charitable Fund (PLCF) Kicks and Inspires groups to discover their club’s first player of Black or Asian heritage, explore their experiences, and celebrate the club’s history with supporters and the wider community.
Big Ideas caught up with Andy Tye, Community Development Officer at Swindon Town FC’s Premier League Community Foundation, about the Trailblazers Project he ran at a local primary school as part of the Premier League Kicks programme. Participants were invited to discover and celebrate Black or Asian Trailblazers from their club and local area, past and present, who have made a difference in their clubs and local communities, amplifying their contributions to football and wider society.
What Trailblazer(s) did you choose?
“It was tough to establish a single Trailblazer during the session as many participants did research around a number of different Trailblazers. To structure the session, participants were split up into small groups of 4 or 5, and filled in the Trailblazer template over the session. Key figures came up again and again; Marcus Rashford, who all of the students were really passionate to talk about, and of course, Chris Kamara, as a Swindon Town Trailblazer. He experienced a lot of adversity, making him a relatable figure to the young people.
As the research continued, the cohort of year 6 students focussed on female Trailblazers, researching and discussing Karen Brady, Chloe Morgen, Nadia Nadim, Eni Aluko, and Emma Clarke”.
How did this focus on female Trailblazers impact your Trailblazers Discussion?
“The young people were passionate about the growth of women in the game and women in sport more generally. They were outraged by the fact that for the most part, the vast majority of women they could find to celebrate were contemporary rather than historical, and female Trailblazers were much later than their male counterparts in getting their achievements. In this particular school these young people aren’t majorly football-obsessed. For them to discover Trailblazers and to zoom in on female footballers was a stellar achievement”.
What is the importance of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in your club?
“We really try to drive EDI, making it an integral part of our club culture and central to our delivery plan. For Swindon Town PLCF Inspires, 60-70% of our intake come from a BAME background. We really find success in this focus on EDI, as the young people feel supported and seen. I think it is important to drive EDI from an educational standpoint, which the Trailblazers project allowed us to do”.
What is the legacy of your Trailblazers project?
“Given the students’ focus on female Trailblazers, they are starting up a girls football team in their school to carry on a Trailblazers legacy!”