More than 70 fans, staff and guests attended an event last week organised by Brentford Football Club together with Kick It Out and the Football Supporters' Federation to discuss the issue of racism and discrimination in football.
During the week where Brentford, as well as many clubs around the country, were marking the 25th Anniversary of Kick It Out, football’s equality and diversity organisation, this event was aimed at challenging one of the game’s big issues head on.
Our event on Thursday was held two days before Brentford’s designated Kick It Out match against Derby County last Saturday, where a Brentford Season Ticket Holder was arrested after an allegation of a racially-aggravated public order offence. The police are investigating this incident.
Brentford FC is working to make Griffin Park as welcoming as possible for all fans and held the event last Thursday to continue the conversation about racism and discrimination in football. The discussion was led by Troy Townsend, from Kick It Out. In addition to Thomas and Romaine, the panel featured TV pundit Liam Rosenior, Brentford FC Hall of Fame member Marcus Gayle, Chris Paouros, a member of the FA’s Inclusion Board, former player and Kick It Out Fans for Diversity lead Anwar Uddin and BBC Young Reporter Salma Mahamud who plays for Brentford Women’s development team.
Questions were taken from the audience about racism and discrimination in football generally, as well as at Brentford. Thomas Frank told those in attendance that he would consider taking his team off the pitch if his players were being racially abused, regardless of the consequences. Topics discussed included the role of the media, and the panellists’ own experiences of discrimination during their careers. Recent instances of racism at matches in England and abroad were also considered and fans shared their own experiences, as well as their thoughts, on what Brentford can do to tackle this issue.
Troy Townsend said: “It was a privilege to host the Brentford FC BeeTogether event on Thursday night. To have Thomas Frank, Romaine Sawyers, Club directors and Community Sports Trust representatives in attendance, shows just how strongly the club recognises its responsibilities in the fight against all forms of discrimination. Saturday’s incident highlights that there is still more work to be done but important events like Thursday’s show a club which is being proactive in trying to tackle the scourge of racism and discrimination in football, and wider society.”
Monique Choudhuri, one of the Club’s Directors, hosted the evening. Monique and her colleagues made notes of any relevant ideas and suggestions, which could be used in the future to put Brentford FC at the forefront of tackling discrimination in football.
Monique said: “I would like to thank everyone for their attendance and contributions to another successful event. As with our International Women’s Day meeting last month, this event forms part of our BeeTogether initiative aimed at making football more inclusive and welcoming for all.
“No-one could have missed the well-publicised incidents of racism in football over the past few months. This is an issue that has not gone away and, while we believe Griffin Park is largely free from such incidents, we want to do all that we can to ensure the culture of our Club is one of inclusivity. We believe that having open conversations like this on the topic of racism and discrimination will help that.
“We have taken on board comments that we need to work at making our Club more welcoming to women, LGBT+ fans and ethnic minority supporters, whilst ensuring that our long-serving supporters continue to enjoy matches at Griffin Park as they always have done. We want to attract fans of all races, genders and sexual orientations and we want everyone to feel welcome at Brentford.”