Twenty years ago this week - on 30th April 1996 - Football Unites, Racism Divides was officially launched at an event at Sheffield United Football Club. Attacks on local Asian and Somali people in the vicinity of the Sheffield United ground, particularly on match days, led to the Football Unites, Racism Divides partnership, which included fans, Sheffield United and community groups, being set up in late 1995. A successful bid for funding from the European Commission's European Cities Anti-Racism Project led to the appointment of Milton Brown as FURD's first co-ordinator in April 1996.
In May 1997, `Sheffield Divided or United? A Study of "Race" and Football`, a research report by Nasim Minhas, Tim Pinto and David Drew commissioned by Football Unites, was published. The study found evidence of both racism and anti-racism among Sheffield United fans and in the local community and informed much of our early work.
Another significant early milestone was our work to uncover and promote the forgotten story of the world's first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton. Wharton had lain in an unmarked grave until a campaign by FURD provided a headstone for his grave in May 1997. FURD also supported Phil Vasili in researching and writing a biography of Wharton, `The First Black Footballer: Arthur Wharton 1865-1930`, which was published in September 1998. This early work laid the foundations for much future work raising awareness of his significance and Wharton now has his own statue at St George's Park.
Joint Co-ordinator Mehrun Ahmed commented,
'Reaching our 20th Birthday is testament to FURD's solid roots, in terms of its purpose and being anchored within the community. Since FURD's inception in 1996, we have made huge inroads in combatting racism in football and increasing opportunities for young people. FURD has given young people an opportunity to make a real difference for their communities. The more people get involved, the better chance we have of reducing levels of racism within football and the wider community.'
To read more about our history, check out our Milestones and News Archives pages at the links below. We're also currently tweeting about our history and posting some highlights and photos on Facebook - see links below.