Garth Crooks delivers a keynote speech at the 'Leading the Way' conference
Paul Elliott led the focus on nurturing football’s next generation at Kick It Out’s second annual mentoring and leadership conference yesterday (27 March).
Participants from across the country descended on the TUC Congress House in London for ‘Leading the Way’, an initiative supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to discuss potential pathways into the football industry with key representatives across various fields within the game.
Former Chelsea and Celtic defender Elliott, who acted as host, commented in his opening address: “This event is all about you. We have mentors here today from across different areas of the game and a variety of backgrounds. They have all taken their own unique journey into football, and can give you an invaluable insight into their field to help you along the way. Speak to as many people as you can, and most importantly, put the advice you’re given into practice.”
Earl Barrett, the campaign’s Mentoring and Leadership project leader, emphasised the positive influences the game can have and the opportunities it has to offer. “Today is a perfect reflection of the positives that our game can generate,” the ex-England international commented.
To see a taster video of the 'Leading the Way' conference filmed by Football Exclusives, please click here.
“It’s a unique opportunity to discover your own methods and forge your own pathway into the industry. There is a wealth of opportunity and many experienced and talented individuals are present today to help you, so please take advantage of that.”
Keynote speaker Heather Rabbatts CBE, the first woman to sit on The FA board, supported Barrett’s beliefs in an inspiring speech specifically covering the topics of women and minorities working in football. “There are a whole range of professions that are involved in the world of football and often we don’t think about them when we are trying to consider our own careers.
“One focuses on the talent that’s on the pitch but there are so many other roles, that if you want to really participate you can achieve. Football is a massive global industry and the great thing about being involved in English football is that it is hugely respected throughout the world.”
Joyce Cook OBE, Chair of Level Playing Field, spoke about diversity in football and the progress being made to provide equality of opportunity for all participants: “We cannot accept compromise when it comes to equality and inclusion and we cannot kid ourselves nor try to justify that it’s OK to compromise because of the size of the challenge.”
Reflecting on what has been a testing season for English football, Garth Crooks OBE, gave his own positive outlook: “When you think what your doing doesn’t matter, think again. Somebody is watching you and what you do, and appreciating what you do. You never know when your abilities might just come into focus. So don’t give up, keep doing what you doing.”
There were a series of workshops, exhibitions and one-to-one mentoring sessions running throughout the day, with figureheads such as Charlton Athletic midfielder Jason Euell, The PFA’s Paul Davis, Andy Evans, CEO of Queens Park Rangers Community Trust, Cathy Long, the Premier League’s Head of Supporter Services, and Aisha Hughton from Sky Sports News, passing on advice.
Andrew Muhammad, one of the country’s leading public speakers, delivered an energetic speech centering around people achieving future career goals, using the attitude and hard work of professional sportsmen and women as inspiration.
The day concluded with a Q&A discussion, allowing attendees to quiz a panel made up of former Scotland manager George Burley, England C team boss Paul Fairclough, Scott Field, The FA’s head of media, BBC Sport’s Caroline Barker, Michael Nyarko of Rio Ferdinand’s ‘Live the Dream’ Foundation, and Riz Rehman from the Zesh Rehman Foundation.
Members of the audience asked questions on a number of aspects relating to the industry and gained a valuable insight into some of the working practises within football. The lack of black and minority ethnic coaches, and the under-representation of females and Asians in the game, were some of the key topics discussed in the debate.
Written by Jack Cavilla