International Women's Day

'Being at the board table can inspire others'

By Mark Orlovac 6 Mar 2024
Toni Thorne, Premier League Charitable Fund

Premier League Charitable Fund Trustee Toni Thorne on being a role model and her unwavering commitment to improving other people's lives

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About the Premier League Charitable Fund

To mark International Women's Day on 8 March, we have spoken to five female leaders in football to learn about their experiences and inspirations.

We continue the series by hearing from Toni Thorne, who works at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and was appointed to the Premier League Charitable Fund Board of Trustees in November 2022.

Toni's list of achievements and awards are extensive. She was a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, Women of the Future UK Awardee, Barbados National Youth Awardee and was the first Black or Caribbean person to sit on the Global Youth Leader's European Summit.

She has had her own radio show, was the head of a children's charity and a major community festival, and her philanthropic roles have included missionary activities in Haiti and the creation of a charity programme in Jamaica to fight the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.

Tell us about your background

I am from Barbados and my parents were, and still are, very heavily involved in civic duty and community development. They passed that passion down to me.

Toni Thorne, Premier League Charitable Fund, v2

From a young age I was involved in community work. When I was seven I started a club where we used to clean up the school and learn about recycling.

I've always had thoughts about what can I do to effect change.

I moved to the UK in 2020. I did my MBA at Cambridge University during COVID, so I had to really immerse myself into the work.

I was invited to speak at a Premier League Changemakers event, which is a programme that supports young women by inspiring, empowering and equipping them with the tools to develop a positive attitude towards leadership.

I was so inspired and heartened by it, I enquired about a role as a PLCF Trustee. Luckily enough there was a vacancy that they were about to advertise for, so I applied. It's amazing how life works.

What does your job entail?

I like to joke and say a trustee is, eyes on hands off; especially if you have really good people working at the organisation - and everyone at the PLCF is passionate about their job.

My role is to work with the other trustees to establish the overall strategy of what the PLCF wants to do in the next five to 10 years.

A trustee is not about micromanaging. My role is to bring all of my previous experience to the table.

Why did you want to do this role? 

I want to leave the world in a better state than I found it for my siblings and hopefully my children.

Toni Thorne, Premier League Charitable Fund v3

Both my mother and my grandmother are teachers and living in a house with the two of them, I learnt that the greatest thing that you can do is enhance somebody else's life. That's why I wanted to be a trustee.

It's been a great experience and I'm still learning. I'm really happy to be a part of the board, the PLCF is an amazing organisation. You can tangibly see how people's lives are changed.

Why is this role important to you? 

I'm passionate about the development of other people, particularly women and children, and the power of using football to effect change in people's lives.

My mother has one of the largest dance troupes on Barbados. Many of the children come from inner city areas who credit their personal development to being a part of that group.

You have to use something that children like to change their lives. You can bring about more change using a football than using calculus.

Who were your inspirations?

I moved to the UK on a very rainy Friday afternoon; it was the day after I buried one of my best friends.

She was young. She battled with lupus which then developed into cancer but she lived every day like it was her last. She left a legacy.

We would be doing a bunch of charity initiatives and I only realised the horrible pain she was in when she died. Despite her pain, she would still do things for children.

Toni Thorne, Premier League Charitable Fund

I dedicated my MBA to her and I immersed myself into this new life in the UK. How she lived her life is an inspiration to me.

How important are female role models in football?

Extremely. Diversity is so important. There's a saying, 'you can't believe what you can't see.' That's very real.

It's easy for me to sit at the board table as a black woman from the Caribbean and to only think about people that look, sound and feel like me. We have to think about everyone who is being left out of the conversation.

I do not think of myself as a role model. I am just trying to bring my best self to every board meeting. When people see me there, it makes it possible for them. If I can do it so can they. I feel a great level of pride and responsibility.

How has the landscape changed for women in football?

It's changing but there's more work to be done. That doesn't only fall on the women in football, it falls on everybody else to jump on board and be an ally. 

We can't get too caught up with what we've done thus far because we haven't reached the goal as yet.

Toni Thorne, Premier League Charitable Fund
The theme of International Women's Day 2024 is inspiring inclusion, how do you do that in your role? 

If I as a black woman can come from a tiny island, with a strong accent, a different perspective, and sit on the PLCF board, anybody can do it.

I champion inclusion by my mere existence on the board. The PLCF has championed inclusion and it doesn't stop with me just being there. I have to live as I claim. I have to bring other people with me and if I'm a real champion for inclusion, those people don't necessarily have to look like me or sound like me.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Just keep swimming and eventually you will find your place in life. It might not be perfect, but you will find that place.

More than 100 club charities supported by the Premier League via the Premier League Charitable Fund create positive sporting, health, personal and education opportunities for children, young people and the wider community.

To find out more about our work, click here.

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