For this year’s Katrine Prince lecture, we were treated to a fabulously entertaining, engaging and yet also thought-provoking pair of talks by former England footballer Paul Elliott, CBE.
He took us through both the history of the FA and his personal journey as a second-generation Jamaican whose grandmother Sissy, clearly a great influence, was one of the first to come to Britain as part of the Windrush generation in 1948.
There is clearly relevance to the guiding community - football is a global industry, with British clubs at its core, bringing many hundreds of thousands of visitors to Britain (and if we win the bid to host the Euros in 2028, there may be opportunities to team up with the FA to offer guided tours); these visitors will come from diverse backgrounds; and the guiding community is also facing the challenge of diversifying.
Born in Lewisham in 1964, his first experience of racism was being booed as soon as he appeared on the pitch for Charlton Athletic playing against Crystal Palace. He was just 16 years old. Then after two years in Italy playing for Pisa - their first black player (and during a game against AC Milan getting injured when Ruud Gullit’s dreadlocks hit him in the eye…!) - he was hired by Celtic and was subject to a torrent of racial abuse at a match against arch rivals Rangers. When a Rangers fan threw a banana onto the pitch at his feet, Paul calmly picked it up, peeled it and ate it, tossing the peel back at the fan and going on to score a goal.
That and other incidents led to a determination to fight for everyone to have the right to work in a racism-free environment. After transferring to Chelsea and becoming their first-ever black captain, a career-ending knee injury, together with the near-death of his son Dom during childbirth, led to his re-evaluating his priorities and embarking on a second career, working with the England & European Football Associations to stamp out racism in football. His achievements include chairing the FA’s Inclusion Board, then the main FA Board; developing the Football Leadership Diversity Code; and lobbying all 20 CEOs in the Premier League to use their global brands to bring about change.
Next challenges include:
We now have the first woman Chair of the FA, Debbie Hewitt, who is a strong change agent; the composition of the FA Board is now more representative of the LGBT+ community, women and people of colour, all chosen through a meritocratic system; and there are several initiatives under way to stamp out racial abuse, including a proposal to fine clubs 10% of their global revenues if they don’t succeed. Re: encouraging more LGBT+ players, Paul suggested that the key is the footballers’ agents, who are currently advising their clients not to come out in case it damages their careers…..
The other part of Paul’s talk was about the history, structure and future of football in this country. The Football Association regulates the game and is its governing body; its core product is the England team. There are 35 committees handling all aspects of the game. In 1921 the FA banned women from playing for over 50 years; before that the women’s game had vast crowds and was more popular than men’s! Currently the women’s game is going from strength to strength - the Women’s Euros audience in 2022 was 15 million. Other key milestones are:
Hope Powell was the first woman and first black woman to manage the England women’s team; in 2016 Baroness Sue Campbell was appointed Director of Women’s Football at the FA, in 2018 bringing structure, vision and a focus on Equality; talent ID centres were set up, creating a pathway for young people; and we could see cultural change happening when men had the women’s team names on the backs of their shirts!
So football is evolving, and becoming more diverse - recognising that for under-represented communities, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.
Future challenges include:
Finally, when asked how we can diversify the guiding profession, Paul suggested we reach out to people of different backgrounds and communities to ask for their input (great timing as the Institute of Tourist Guiding are launching a Diversity Survey to all members, which we are all encouraged to complete, and which will help in this regard). He also recommended making all the wording in our communications fully inclusive; that we encourage diverse recruitment; review which platforms we are using; and that we ensure the integrity and transparency of all our recruitment processes.
(Image Jo Hoad and Paul Elliott CBE)