Kick It Out’s Game Changers mentoring programme started in June as 12 young people came together for a series of empowerment and leadership workshops led by Premier League staff in London.

Game Changers was launched by Kick It Out and UEFA Foundation for Children, with support from the Premier League and UCFB, to develop the next generation of leaders in football.

Over the next year, the 12 Game Changers will receive training, guidance and mentoring to prepare them for a career of affecting positive change in sport – particularly with regards to equality, inclusion and cohesion – and in turn help to address the underrepresentation of minority groups across the industry.

The Premier League hosted the opening session last Tuesday with Martyn Heather, Premier League Head of Education and Welfare, introducing a series of bespoke workshops on leadership, equality and presentation skills to the chosen candidates.

Ceylon Hickman, one of the 12, said: “The first Game Changers seminar really set the tone for what’s to come over the next eleven months. We were so privileged to receive a huge amount of wisdom from industry experts who gave up their time to inspire and support us.

 “Not only did we learn a lot about education, leadership and management, but I had some incredible conversations with senior managers at the Premier League who gave me important advice that’s supported me with my next steps championing inclusion, diversity and equality within the football industry. 

Fellow Game Changer Francis Osinloye agreed: “I certainly enjoyed my time – the opportunity to learn from great leaders such as Sir Paul Grant and many alike was just phenomenal. I look forward to similar settings where we can come together, learn and come up with strategies to drive change in our society.”

Sir Paul Grant, Premier League Education Advisor, delivered the first presentation on the qualities of a good leader before the Game Changers took part in an interactive session led by David Rainford, Premier League Education Support Manager, focused on the challenges and issues around equality and diversity in the game.

After a lunchbreak, Cat Paterson, Premier League Head of Human Resources, delivered a workshop which explained how to recruit the best and most diverse talent into a business, before Martyn Heather completed the day with speaking and presentation skills session, citing Martin Luther King Jr. as a particular source of inspiration.

Kick It Out’s Education Officer, Osei Sankofa, was delighted with the opening session.

“The Game Changers were engaged throughout the day and took on a great deal of information from the speakers,” he said. “It was really encouraging to see how positively they responded to the workshops.

 “Martyn Heather and the Premier League hosted a fantastic, educational day and I am confident that our Game Changers have now taken another step towards successful careers supporting equality and inclusion in the football industry.”

Martyn Heather, Premier League Head of Education & Welfare, said: “The Premier League is proud to support Kick it Out’s Game Changers mentoring programme. The young people selected have shown themselves to be inspirational in their desire to develop their knowledge and skills to enable them to bring about a positive change in the football industry in addressing the underrepresentation of BAME and female groups in leadership and governance positions.”

Nick Wilkinson, Head of Global Recruitment at UCFB who will be hosting a Game Changers session of their own later this summer, said: “We are delighted to be involved in such a fantastic initiative creating chances for the next generation of football leaders. UCFB came into existence to train and educate tomorrow’s leaders and our partnership with Kick It Out has already helped to lay the groundwork for the future of an inclusive football industry.

“We can’t wait to help mentor the successful applicants and look forward to welcoming them to our Project Planning and Football Governance event this summer at UCFB Wembley.”

Kick It Out’s 12 Game Changers are:

Francis Osinloye

Ceylon Hickman

Natasha Buckland

Sophie Cowell

Karan Rai

James Coulbeck

Sonali Gupta

Oli Moore

Louie Silvani

Tosin Gbaja

Roya Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy

Ammarah Pandor