THE FOOTBALL BLACKLIST (FBL) breaks new ground in late May when they host their first-ever event in Birmingham. The popular event takes place on May 25th at Villa Park, home of Premier League Aston Villa.
Founded in 2008 by Leon Mann and Rodney Hinds, the FBL aims to shine a light on Black professionals working in the industry – to inspire the next generation of leaders. The initiative is supported by the Premier League, PFA, FA, EFL, FA PGMOL, the League’s Managers Association, FARE Network and Kick it Out
Next week’s regional event is supported by the Football Association and pays tribute to the West Midlands football family.
The idea behind the initiative is that by highlighting role models, young people will be more encouraged to think about how they can get involved in sport beyond the field of play and that it will provide an opportunity to reflect and embrace diversity in the football industry discuss underrepresentation and consider how to address this problem
The list is only published in The voice newspaper each year to ensure it is rooted in the African and Caribbean community.
Regular FBL attendees should also look forward to the national FBL celebration scheduled for later in the year, again supported by the Premier League.
Matthew Chadder spoke to FBL coordinator and past awardee Andrew Bontiff. Andrew is currently planning the event in Birmingham with his colleague J’nae Ward.
Below he talks about the importance of the list, what it has accomplished so far and why now is the time to take the event to the streets.
MC: Explain and emphasize the importance and necessity of the Football Blacklist.
AB: It’s the number one event in our industry where we can invite and bring everyone together and celebrate black excellence in football. The majority of the public will know all the top names playing on the field, your Raheem Sterlings, Marcus Rashfords, but there are a number of people working within the community who are also doing great things, be it in coaching whether it is administration or work in schools.
This event is my number one event that brings everyone together and we celebrate and highlight their achievements.
The list has been published exclusively in The Voice each year to ensure it is rooted in the black community. Could you tell us a bit more about that decision and the thought process behind it?
Rodney Hinds is the co-founder, so I think that’s fantastic The voice continued to offer their support and promote the event. The voice is a paper we all grew up with and now they continue to support the platform. If you look at people working in the industry, most of them all started, wrote, and contributed The voice So it’s a great legacy to see people who may have started their careers at the newspaper and are now working on other platforms. It creates that family atmosphere.
The latest edition of the blacklist contained more names than ever before. Is that something you want to try and increase in the future and maybe make the list a little bit bigger every year?
It’s more that there are more black people in the industry now and I think that’s just a sign of progress. We know there is still a long way to go in terms of representation and diversity, but at the same time the list is longer because of these events. It’s because of the support of The Voice, The Blacklist and what we’re doing to highlight achievements and raise awareness.
We had the Premier League and the FA behind those events and other stakeholders came down. So it’s getting bigger because there’s more access to the industry now. There are a number of unsung heroes doing amazing things in their community, and the blacklist allows people to nominate and recognize people.
So that’s why I feel like the list is getting longer and I’m really, really proud of that. I’ve seen people do great work and now this is the opportunity for them to be recognized and highlighted.
The blacklist has been around for 14 years now. Can you just talk about the success so far and how far it has come?
I think I’ve been to all but the very first event. I first went there just as a citizen, then I volunteered.
I then started working with Rodney and Leon on this event. I’ve always considered it the biggest event on the calendar, this opportunity for all of us to come together, celebrate our achievements and connect. You can’t get a better event for that.
It’s been around for over 14 years now and I’m really proud of the journey and it will continue to get bigger and better. I think the fact that we’re now taking it to the streets and moving it to Villa Park shows progress and allows us to recognize people in that particular region.
This is the first time it has left London and hit the streets, how important is that?
The industry is getting bigger and more diverse. It’s definitely a happier industry to work in than it might have been a few years ago. You know, we see people both on and off the field, and we get opportunities. As I said before, there is still a lot to do and we are not quite there yet, but we are on the right track.
If we talk about the main celebration, historically it was London. However, we are also aware that not everyone can participate in this one event. So when we’re on the road, we can connect with other communities and help build partnerships with football clubs.
A big thank you to Aston Villa Football Club for the support. It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to work really well with the Birmingham FA. You asked before why it’s getting bigger because we’re now having discussions with local councils who are telling us there’s a certain part of Birmingham where every Sunday there are hundreds of people from the black community, referee games, coach grassroots football.
So if we take the event to the streets, we can meet more family members. I think part of the plan will be to get it on the road more often because we want to engage with our community. We don’t want to be very London focused.
We want to be able to introduce it to other communities in the UK who may have felt a little left out. Now it’s an opportunity for us to come to them and also celebrate local heroes.