On Wednesday, 18th October, the Kent FA held its first ever Celebrating Diversity In Football Conference in association with Black History Month (BHM) for coaches and the football workforce across Kent at The Village Hotel, Maidstone.
The event aimed to promote a more inclusive and diverse footballing community across the County through empowering and inspiring the present and next generation of coaches, workforce, volunteers, players and officials across Kent.
The event, hosted by professional sports presenter and broadcaster Kweku Afari, began with an opening speech from the Kent FA's Workforce & Participation Lead, David Webb, who welcomed the 46 attendees and explained, "We are excited by the opportunity that tonight's event creates, through celebration, collaboration, and inspiration to further highlight and strive towards the importance of more diversity within Kent's Grassroots football community".
As the event proceeded, Kweku hosted two exceptional panels with various special guest panellists from across Kent and the football industry. The first panel discussed the current landscape of diversity in football in the professional game with George Elokobi (Maidstone United FC Manager) and Craig Fagan (Maidstone United FC Assistant Manager). The second panel, comprised of Anwar Uddin MBE (Diversity & Inclusion Manager at The FA) and Troy Townsend (Head of Player Engagement at Kick It Out), discussed how to tackle equality in your football community. Through both panel discussions and the experiences of the special guests, awareness, impact, and guidance were brought to the attention of all around. This highlighted how seeing it helps to believe it, creating more diversity and inclusion in football.
The event concluded with a closing speech from Kent FA Chief Executive Darryl Haden, who said, “Hosting events like these are incredibly important in our journey to make the game from discrimination. We must ensure that we continue to develop and provide opportunities for more diversity among our players, our referees, our coaches, and our club administrators as well as ensuring that we provide dedicated support to all of these stakeholders. We recognise that we have more to do within the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion space – we are not perfect by any means, but it is important to take stock of what we have achieved, reflect and learn from those achievements to ensure that we keep driving our work in equality and diversity forward.”
This powerful evening will become an annual event. We spoke to grassroots coach for Kings Hill FC and Tonbridge and Malling Schools District Team, Les Marshall, who said, "I thought all the speakers were excellent. The way they all spoke about their experiences was both moving and shocking. There has been plenty of coverage regarding the issues discussed at the event, but hearing it directly from the victims, it is very impactful".
Co-event organiser Harry Mark, Kent FA Inclusion Football Development Officer, said, "What an incredible evening! We celebrated diversity's power in football and listened to inspirational individuals who shared their incredible journeys. But we also heard about their challenges and how their hard work and dedication have enabled them to overcome these obstacles, which has been vital to their success".
The event is part of a much larger programme of work that The Kent FA is planning, collaborating, and delivering on to support diversity and inclusion for its coaches, volunteers, workforce, officials, and players.
To find out more information about how you can access support within your learning and development as a coach or the work to support enhancing diversity and inclusive opportunities in Kent, contact Kent FA Workforce & Participation Lead, David Webb at David.Webb@KentFA.com or Kent FA Inclusion Football Development Officer, Harry Mark at Harry.Mark@KentFA.com who will be able to provide you with further information.