The Football Black List
For once being black listed is a good thing! The Football Black List is a special set of awards that recognises and celebrates the contribution of people of African and African Caribbean heritage to the football industry. I am very proud to have been selected in the administration category this year. We know that so few people of Black heritage get the opportunity to take on leadership opportunities in football and that needs to change. My work on the No Room for Racism Action Plan for the Premier League has very much been centred on opening up career pathways to groups who are significantly under-represented in football’s corridors of power and influence.
The Importance of Learning
In November at St George’s Park near Burton-on-Trent (headquarters to the England Football team) I was invited by to be a guest speaker at an event for those completing the Elite Academy Manager programme. After sharing a little of my story after dinner came the main event which involved me interviewing Leicester City (and former Liverpool and Celtic) manager Brendan Rodgers. It was hugely insightful to hear Brendan talk about how he developed into a top coach despite not having himself had a long elite playing career. His thirst for learning came out as a central part of his development and I was also impressed, in particular, by the way that throughout his career he has stuck to his principles and beliefs – even through the more difficult moments. Thanks to the Premier League for the opportunity to do this interview.
It’s a Marathon, not a sprint
Sometimes you get more than you bargained for. When, as part of my induction as a board member of Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, I spoke to the charity team I hadn’t thought about the free places for the London Marathon they might have! I mentioned that I ran a bit and before I knew it I was in! No more putting it off or saying that a marathon isn’t for me. Here were my thoughts a couple of days after the race which was an epic day.
The Palace…at last!
It was a huge honour to be awarded the OBE in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List. Little did we know when we celebrated that last weekend of 2019 when the news broke that it would be another eighteen months before we finally made it to St James’s Palace to collect the precious medal. The first attempt in April 2020 was cancelled as we were in full lockdown but a Covid compliant ceremony was possible in late June. It was a lovely day and very nice afterwards to receive so many wonderful comments from friends and colleagues on LinkedIn in response to my post.
No Room for Racism
In February 2021 the Premier League published its No Room for Racism Action Plan. I started leading the work on this the previous summer following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests and the decision by Premier League players to take the knee before each game in order to call for change in the area of racial equality. Here is a link to my post at that time.
As an added bonus, as part of promoting the Action Plan, Crystal Palace Football Club kindly featured me on their website and in the programme.
It was a great opportunity to look back to my formative experiences of racism and connect to what I’m doing now. Since my first trip to Selhurst Park in 1974, my love of football has been a real positive and I’ve seen how it can unite people by breaking down barriers.
In Parliament…at Home
In July 2020, for the first time in my career, I was called to give evidence at a Parliamentary Select Committee. I’ve been to the Houses of Parliament many times for other reasons but this occasion was also unique for being virtual. I appeared in front of the Committee to give evidence regarding inclusion and representation issues in sport. The TV recording is available below – notable among other things for “lockdown hair”!
New Year’s Honours List News!
2019 had a number of highlights but it certainly saved the best to last with the announcement that I have been awarded an OBE in the 2020 New Year honours list for my work over many years promoting diversity and inclusion. It is a real honour (literally) to be recognised in this way and my family, friends and I look forward to the investiture ceremony in the early part of 2020.
In the Footsteps of My Father
The last quarter of 2019 brought an important moment for my family when it was announced that I would be joining the board of Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust as a non executive director. Guy’s is my local hospital but more importantly it is where my late father did his medical training. He came to London from Lagos by boat (via Liverpool) in 1948 and lived in Croydon where he met my mum. I appeared many years later but it’s because of Guy’s that I’m here at all! I’m so pleased to be able to continue his immense legacy in the healthcare sector by getting involved in the NHS at such a critical time and with one of the country’s leading Trusts. Dad is pictured below at home in Buea, Cameroon on the occasion of his 80th birthday in a replacement for his original Guy’s cap and gown that we got him as a present. The original went missing somewhere on his travels around Africa.