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29th Dec, 2023

Sanjay Bhandari and Troy Townsend awarded MBEs

We are delighted and proud that Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari and head of player engagement Troy Townsend have been awarded MBEs in the New Years Honours list for services to sport and services to diversity and inclusion in football.

Sanjay was appointed as Kick It Out chair in 2019, and has given the organisation a new drive and vision as it moves into its fourth decade of existence.

Sanjay’s leadership has provided Kick It Out with a new structure, new investment, including its partnership with Sky, and a new strategy as it continues to deliver on being a solutions-focused organisation. Nowhere has this been more apparent than when Sanjay led football governing bodies to help construct legislation for the new Online Safety Act, which was passed earlier this year. His recommendations were adopted by football and should make football a safer and more welcoming place.

Similarly, Sanjay has been a driving force in lobbying football and government for greater representation in many areas of the game, and will continue to press the case via the Independent Football Regulator. For many years, people have questioned how systemic change can happen with regards to discrimination and inclusion in football.  But Sanjay has proven how this can be done by bringing people together. Long may that continue. 

Troy is the longest-serving member of Kick It Out and to many, he is Mr Kick It Out. He has contributed massively to calling out discrimination, leading the discussion for change and providing support and education to thousands of footballers up and down the land.

After 11 years with Kick It Out, no one has travelled more miles for the organisation, both in a physical and metaphorical sense. His willingness to tackle some of football’s biggest challenges, his dedication to putting player welfare at the forefront of his work and his honest and authentic voice means he is cherished by players, managers and fans alike. And his continued drive to educate the next generation through workshops across the country, and his creation of Kick It Out’s Raise Your Game programme to provide youngsters with career opportunities in the football industry means his legacy will continue for decades.

Troy has been selfless in the way he has tackled discrimination and promoted inclusion in football, which many would find difficult to maintain. But his commitment has never wavered, and his winning smile will continue to provide light where there is often shade.