Wednesday 14 March 2012
Aston Villa have become the second Premier League club to be awarded the Advanced Level of the Equality Standard for its work in promoting sport for under-represented individuals, groups and communities.
The award is the highest level of achievement from Kick It Out - football's equality and inclusion campaign which works to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and work for positive change.
"We have been very impressed with how staff and players work to engage the local community"
- Lord Herman Ouseley
The Standard has the backing of the Premier League, The Football Association (FA) and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and requires every club to look at all areas of operations and to consider the role that equality, diversity and fair access to opportunities will play in these endeavours.
"[Aston Villa] is leading the way in this field, placing issues around diversity at the very top if its agenda," said Lord Herman Ouseley, chair of Kick It Out.
"We have been very impressed with how staff and players alike demonstrate this through a range of engagement work across the local community, with Villa Park acting as a crucial hub for this.
"Collectively, they have worked hard towards achieving positive outcomes to ensure this success. I have been to a number of events at Villa Park at which we have celebrated diversity and football clubs play an intrinsic role in how this relates to the wider community."
Villa in Harmony is the club’s scheme to work in the community to meet Kick It Out’s objectives, and the club also works in partnership with children's hospice trust Acorns.
Aston Villa Chief Executive Paul Faulkner said: "We are very proud to have achieved this honour from Kick It Out, especially given everything it stands for and how this relates to our core values as a club.
"We have a commitment to equality and diversity in a very ethnically and culturally diverse community"
- Paul Faulkner
"Most people will be very aware of the close and long-standing relationship we have with Acorns but we also have a very real commitment to equality and diversity in what is a very ethnically and culturally diverse community.”
Ravinder Masih, Villa's Community Relationship manager and Football Operations/Projects manager Lee Preece have spearheaded the Villa In Harmony initiative, along with fellow committee member Karen Croft.
Masih said: "The club's commitment to the community has always been an integral part of the overall ethos of Aston Villa and this will always be the case.
"Our Villa in Harmony campaign continues to flourish, extending the positive promotion of our efforts towards encouraging and achieving equality and diversity.
"We are always looking to enhance our efforts within the greater Birmingham area and we are very honoured at the club to have achieved the Equality Standard."
Arsenal are the other Premier League side to have acheived the Standard.
Meanwhile, Kick It Out is running its second mentoring and leadership conference, entitled 'Leading the Way', at the TUC HQ, Congress House, London on Tuesday March 27th.
The invitation-only event will see keynote speeches from former player Garth Crooks, FA director Heather Rabbatts and former player and anti-racism campaigner Paul Elliott.