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Lord Ouseley: 'Our young people are much more powerful now'

CHANGING THE GAME: Lord Ouseley and Robbie Lyle from Arsenal Fan TV

ANTONIA PANG is a young Chinese woman who chose to come and live here in the UK. Not long after she arrived, she fell in love with football and more specifically Hull City FC. Antonia was even spotted on TV at a match at the KCOM stadium standing and cheering with her fellow Tigers fans.
After one match she was leaving the ground and started getting abused by some away fans – you probably know the kind of stuff – about DVDs and eating dogs. Antonia felt threatened and understandably upset but she didn’t confront her abusers.

Instead she went home and started work on a short animated film about her experiences. From life in a picturesque part of China to coming here and finding “the beautiful game” has an ugly side. The film was shown this week to an audience of 200 people at an event to mark the 25th anniversary of Kick It Out.

The film, Who Are Ya?, is a brilliant and moving piece of work and while it was showing you could have heard a pin drop. Antonia was there and modestly received a deserved ovation.

The reason I tell this story is it demonstrates how much more powerful our young people are now than when I set up Kick It Out in 1993. Antonia’s film has reached far wider audience than say, a letter to a newspaper or the club programme would ever have done. It is being talked about on Twitter and shared online. It is having an impact.

When it came to my turn to hold the mic I told the audience that a lot of young people think they’re powerless but they need to start thinking they are powerful. It’s easy to say, but the evidence is there if you look.

Paul Elliott also spoke in his role as the head of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board. When he was a young man captaining Chelsea and Celtic, he might have been seen as powerful but he talked about how powerless he was in the face of racial abuse – sometimes from his own fans – and how that has also changed.

Young footballers, like young fans, can not only stand up to abuse and discrimination but they can now find different ways of telling those stories and breaking the traditional “old media” hierarchy.


GOOD TO TALK: (Left to right) Robbie Lyle, Martha Kelner, Eli Mengem and Crystal Davis partake in the panel discussion at Kick it Out Live

Another example from the 25th anniversary event in Stratford. One of the Kick It Out team (and a sports reporter here at The Voice) is Crystal Davis, a young and very talented aspiring journalist and presenter who looks after our Raise Your Game initiative. Not only does Crystal have her own YouTube channel but she hosted an on-stage discussion in front of a live audience with Robbie Lyle from Arsenal Fan TV, Eli Mengem from Copa 90 and Martha Kelner latterly of The Guardian but now about to become Sky’s Sports correspondent.

Robbie’s channel, which he created, gets 20 million views a month. In the run-up to the transfer window his videos were clocking up 150, 000 views a day. He has become a legend among Gooners and has changed for many the way football fans are viewed.

He said: “We've also shown that football is a very diverse game. There's a lot of black fans, a lot of Asian fans, there's disabled fans, there's women. We've shown that actually it's not just your traditional Football Factory type of fan out there."

Eli’s channel – featuring videos on football and football culture all over the world – has the best part of 2million subscribers and as many follow them on Facebook.

Eli himself says: “Football’s greatest asset is its cultural diversity” and his channel reflects that in 60 countries.

These young people are reflecting a new democracy – not a world controlled by the old paternalistic structures. They are getting their messages of diversity and inclusion out there to the kind of numbers the old media world can only dream about.

They are also harnessing the unique power of football to get their messages across – and I can’t help feeling that this is just the beginning of something. As I keep saying: “We need to change the men who have power." And the likes of Martha, Crystal, Eli , Robbie – and Antonia – are helping to do that and we at Kick It Out are proud to support them.

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