No Room For Racism

Sam Allison: 'Phenomenal' PL Kicks is inspiring the next generation

By Mark Orlovac 12 Apr 2024
Premier League Kicks Cup, Sam Allison

Find out what happened when the top-flight referee met PL Kicks participants as part of the No Room For Racism campaign

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"It's fundamental that there's opportunity for everybody in society. It's fantastic that the Premier League are inspiring young people, giving them a voice and a chance to be involved in the game."

As a groundbreaking Premier League referee, Sam Allison knows the importance of opportunity and inclusion for all - in football as well as wider society.

On Boxing Day, Allison became the first black referee in the top flight since 2008 when he officiated the match between Sheffield United and Luton Town.

And as part of his support for the Premier League's No Room For Racism campaign, Allison last week visited the Swindon Town FC Community Foundation for a Premier League Kicks tournament to see how the programme is engaging with young people in communities across England and Wales.

"It's a phenomenal programme," Allison said. "That there's an initiative out there inspiring our young people, our next generation, who are hopefully going to be involved in football in whatever capacity, is outstanding.

Premier League Kicks. Swindon Town

"When we all talk about football, we're talking about unifying people anyway and it's about community bonds, it's about making that difference, being involved in the game.

"The diversity, the environment and just the whole feel was superb, it all contributed towards a really good day."

The event at Swindon Town was one of nine regional tournaments being staged at community facilities across the country, giving hundreds of young people of all backgrounds the opportunity to represent Premier League and EFL clubs as they try to qualify for the national Premier League Kicks Cup finals - this year being held at St George's Park in July.

It is one part of the Premier League Kicks programme, which is funded by the Premier League through the Premier League Charitable Fund and uses the power of football and sport to inspire young people to reach their potential in some of the most high-need areas in England and Wales.

"I love Premier League Kicks," said one participant. "We're playing with new people and meeting new people and playing football.

"It's very inclusive, anyone can come along. There's different age groups, all genders, anyone and everyone can mix together and play together."

Premier League Kicks, Swindon Town

Allison's inspirational journey to the top flight, via successful careers both as a footballer and then as a firefighter, was recognised recently when he was presented with the Cyrille Regis Award at this year's Football Black List.

And he hopes that his presence at the Premier League Kicks tournament will give encouragement to others, not only in refereeing, but also in the wider game.

"It was good to speak to some of the young people, to get an understanding of diversity that they've experienced, good or bad, and how they've challenged those situations," he said. "I was there to listen and share my story, how I got involved in refereeing.

"I want to inspire, support, mentor and coach. I want to be that person that people can turn to for advice."

The No Room For Racism campaign involves the Premier League and its clubs working with fans, The FA, EFL, PFA, Kick It Out and the police to fight against discrimination on and off the pitch, promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across all areas of football.

Premier League Kicks, Swindon Town

All Premier League matches between 6-15 April are dedicated to the campaign.

"It's really important that we appreciate diversity and that we have equity, equality and fairness; that everyone can see someone that represents them," Allison said.

"Campaigns like No Room For Racism are vital. I want to be part of it for as long as I can. It gives those people that don't have a voice themselves the confidence that someone is speaking for them.

"When big organisations are doing it, people listen. The impact of the Premier League driving these campaigns, and running programmes like Premier League kicks, tells people that they're serious. They mean it."

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