Under a Cloud Raise Your Game 2019

#RYG19

As the headline suggests that is exactly what Kick it Out did. The backdrop of racism entering football stories, organisations ineffectiveness and lack of leadership. Kick it Out produced a Premier event with Premier League support. As I arrived at Arsenal Football Club, I must admit that I was a little cynical of what would be on offer, none the less I was duty bound to attend. This cynicism was further reinforced by how delegates waited while the privileged few entered what at the time felt like us versus them. So, with my back up and armed with only my experience I finally entered the what I could only call the dragons den. I sat strategically positioned between the aptly labelled drop in zone and main stage.  As I waited and the room began to fill and the timing moved beyond the schedule I started to draw up my action plan, who I wanted to see, what I needed to ask, why was this important, how could I make it work and if I failed what would be my exit. This planning increased my confidence and I realised without any prompt I had raised my game, so I sat with a slight grin. The event started some 30 minutes late but being of South Asian descent, it was the norm. Perhaps this was Kick It Out’s attempt to make me feel welcomed. So once the welcomes were completed by more than capable individual, I felt there was an opportunity missed, why not get someone that wants a job to support the presenters, what better way to advertise than to do the job and get the experience. The first big guest was what we all in grassroots feel and begin to see why the reality for us is all the norm in the football food chain. If you are white, English, middle class and Russell Group educated then they are thinking for you and saying what is best for you instead of listening to you. So, the right words were said a tough message was presented on racism but it was clear where Kick It Out has its first criticism it has not connected with the grassroots football and an air of elitism swayed through the room that very moment. So how many overt racists do you know that went to a Russell Group University? The answer is not to send them somewhere else and have someone else deal with their behaviour. Football has a responsibility to re-educate these individuals and not think an already exhausted criminal justice system is the answer. Under representation seems to be a new buzz word in the football world which should really be written as over simplified. It is naïve to think that by providing schemes we will end up correcting the lack of Asian or Black groups in the coaching world. What is needed is making sure the well qualified get the chance to experience their chosen profession. This takes me to the main purpose of the day, making sure those that have the desire, drive and talent get connected with the industry. What felt like going one nil down at half time Kick It Out fed the assembled squad of industry heavyweights. People you had seen on TV were there in flesh supporting, mentoring and encouraging hopefuls. A chance to meet the likes of Melissa Reddy, Dharmesh Seth and Henry Winter further fuelled the belief that if you are good enough you will get noticed. Take away the bravado, arrogance and complacency that may have felt from a distance was replaced by a relevant organisation that was doing what it does best and making connections. For Kick It Out not to feel like it has lost touch over 25 years it needs to do what it did best when it started and that is return back to grassroots and make themselves heard and felt across the grassroots community and no doubt just like I have Raised My Game and on the evidence of such a great event Kick It Out will also.

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