Football Unites, Racism Divides celebrated its tenth anniversary with a star-studded event at Bramall Lane on Friday 11th November.
The number of high-profile guests who attended showed how much the project has achieved since its early days when it had to battle to overcome cynicism that such an initiative was necessary.
The evening was compered by BBC Radio Sheffield presenters Jay and Sam, along with Piara Powar, director of the national anti-racism campaign Kick It Out, and guests were welcomed with speeches from the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor Roger Davison, Sheffield United’s vice-chairman Terry Robinson and Sheffield Central MP and Minister for Sport Richard Caborn.
150 guests attended the dinner sponsored by Sheffield United. Several pioneering black footballers were present, including Brendon Batson, now a consultant with the Football Association, Luther Blissett, Gary Bennett, Ces Podd, and United’s own Tony Agana and Trenton Wiggan. They were joined by current Blades stars Paul Ifill, Alan Quinn and Jonathan Forte, whilst Wednesday were represented by director Ken Cooke and Community Manager Julian Winter.
Other guests were no less important to the progress of Football Unites. They ranged from Millennium Volunteers and other voluntary workers, to representatives of the amateur football teams and leagues that Football Unites works with, to researchers and academics, local youth workers and learning mentors, local councillors, representatives of the Football Foundation and FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe), including partner projects from England, Ireland, Germany and Austria.
Entertainment was provided in the form of poetry from Chantwriters, a short film about Football Unites’ work, and live music from band Hanging on to Harry, with guest guitarist Frank Clark, Nottingham Forest’s European Cup-winning player and now vice-chair of the League Managers’ Association.
Awards, sponsored by the Professional Footballers’ Association, were presented to people who’ve been instrumental in Football Unites’ work over the years. Young Volunteers awards were given to Kamran Khan, Keith Ward and Uzma Bibi, while Kevin Titterton, Larry Babs Mohammed and Jama Elmi received Adult Volunteers awards. Brendon Batson and Sheila Leeson were recognised for their contributions towards tackling racism in football nationally, whilst Wednesday’s Julian Winter and United’s Andy Pack were thanked for their support of anti-racist work at their respective clubs