Each month, Big Ideas features one of the incredible PL Kicks or PL Inspires leads who are running Trailblazers with their Club Community Organisations (CCOs) across the UK. Read about why Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is important to their groups and why they’re taking part in the Trailblazers project.

Bolton Wanderers Community Trust

At Swansea City AFC Community Trust, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is at the heart of our mission in the local community. This is why we are so thrilled to be involved with Trailblazers and excited about the impact it could have on the young people we work with.

Our Trailblazers project will be focused on Swansea City midfielder Yan Dhanda. Yan is passionate about anti-racism work, and has spoken out in both local and national press about the racism he has experienced as a player of British Asian background.

Yan has agreed to meet with our young people and discuss his experiences with them. As a current member of the first-team squad, we hope his involvement will inspire the participants to become enthusiastic allies of the BAME community and ambassadors for the anti-racism movement among their peers.

Whilst it looks like face-to-face workshops will be on hold for some time due to COVID, we are currently exploring ways that we can share the Trailblazers message virtually with our partner schools.

Graham Smith

Secondary Education Lead, Swansea City AFC Community Trust

Being able to make a difference and help shape someone’s future is a massive privilege and something no coach should take lightly. To quote an African Proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, we all have our role to play, sport is the perfect vehicle in my biased opinion to help facilitate positive change within individuals and society as a whole. This is something I take into account everyday.
Pablo Blackwood

Community Development Officer, QPR in the Community Trust

In line with our 2019 – 2024 Strategy, MFC Foundation strives to meet the social challenges that exist within our local community, aiming to reduce levels of inequality, and actively promote equality, diversity and inclusion. Inspiring confidence, and inspiring hope are central to our vision of achieving equality across our local community. Through using the power of football, we are able to unite and empower communities, as well as inspiring and enhancing the skills of the young people and adults we work with. One of our core values is Inclusion, and it is important to us that employees and those individuals taking part in our programmes are treated equally and fairly.

In schools, our delivery ultimately aims to make a difference, so that young people in particular have the opportunity of realising their potential and fulfilling their dreams and aspirations. In some of our recent work around tackling racism and discrimination, we have been fortunate to work alongside a number of first team players at Middlesbrough Football Club. Prior to the 2020-21 season commencing, our Club Captain, Britt Assombalonga and the entire first team squad made a collective decision against ‘taking the knee’ in relation to Black Lives Matter. The squad felt strongly about alternative ways of generating a message to local people, where they were keen to speak to young people directly about their personal and professional experiences in relation to racism and discrimination. From this, and throughout Black History Month and the Black Lives Matter Campaign, Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher, Marcus Tavernier and Marc Bola each held live virtual calls to local schools. This provided them with an opportunity to educate, guide, support and encourage young people to tackle racism, inequality and discrimination. Some of the key points raised in these discussions were: explaining racism, the importance of understanding racism, why racism occurs, and what role young people can play in order to become an ally. Teachers from the schools involved have expressed how valuable these discussions were for their students, and are keen to access additional, future support centred around equality, diversity and inclusion.

After attending the PLCF Trailblazer Workshop CCO Training, and having held a number of conversations with Trailblazer’s staff, we are excited about offering this programme to our local schools across Teesside. Initially, we were particularly drawn to the flexible nature included within this programme, where we have the option to offer sessions that can be delivered either for 1 hour, 1 full day, or an entire 6 week programme. At present, we are currently exploring ways in which we hope to embed this within our PL inspires delivery going forward, as we’ve already witnessed how valuable this work can be across local communities. Following the previous work undertaken with Middlesbrough Football Club, we are keen to further establish their support within schools, which we hope will provide further depth and quality whilst delivering Trailblazers to local young people. Additionally, we are also aiming to work with a portion of MFC Academy Scholars, who we believe can offer further support to local students, helping them to recognise and celebrate the rich diversity of past, present and future players at Middlesbrough Football Club. Over the remainder of this academic year, we are in the process of conducting our own research around past Trailblazers at Middlesbrough Football Club, one of whom is Viv Anderson, who was the first black player to represent England in a full international match. We are particularly keen to uncover what life in football may have been like for players from ethnic minority communities, as well as unearthing some of the key challenges they may have faced during their careers. Once identified, we hope to publicly acknowledge and highlight our Trailblazers at The Riverside Stadium, ideally on a match day through the use of stadium banners, or on our electronic boards/ main screen. Finally, as part of MFC Foundation’s 25th year as a registered football charity, we have launched our very own staff podcast. This will provide MFC Foundation staff members with an opportunity to talk extensively about their projects, and share the huge variety of benefits that programmes such as Trailblazers bring to our local community.

Matt Kirk

PL Inspires Coordinator, Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation