Norwich City’s Academy hosted a seminar last week to discuss the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia and social media in football, with a panel of guests telling the young Canaries of their journey through the sport.
The panel included Troy Townsend, the Head of Development at Kick It Out, Faye Carruthers, a broadcaster and journalist for Sky Sports and TalkSPORT and Stuart Webber, Sporting Director of Norwich City Football Club.
The event, hosted by Michael Bailey of The Athletic, covered all areas of racism, sexism, homophobia and social media in football. Each panelist gave in-depth and impactful stories on what they’ve experienced working in the industry, from supporting players who have been racially abused, to being one of the first female journalists in the sport.
At the end of each topic, players and their parents were given the chance to ask any lingering questions. The young players engaged heavily in the topics, asking the panelists questions like how they can deal with racist abuse, or take their minds off social media.
Head of Player Care Clive Cook was more than pleased with the event, detailing how each topic was important to the seminar.
“It’s truly important to cover, this is the first time we’ve invited the players. It is predominantly for parents to raise their awareness, as well as the players’.
“The themes were really important, as we come into the fourth one now, we’re really focusing on the key areas. You could see from the night Troy’s [Townsend] frustrations, that’s still current and still have a long way to go with that.
“Homophobia, although we didn’t cover it on the night, is quite important because figures suggest some players may be gay, so we need to support them. If players do choose to come out, we’ve got to make sure they feel safe and not anxious about their sexuality.
“Then social media, I think we’ll still be talking about that in ten years as an issue, because it links to addictions. Social media is one of the biggest addictions out there. A lot of people spend a lot more time on social media than they need to.
“These are real important issues we need to keep the momentum going, we’ve got seminars on this and that ticks the box, but we’ve got to keep that momentum and support going as best we can.”
Despite the workshops and seminars the Academy receive, Cook believes there’s no better way to get a message across to the young players than an ex-footballer passing the message, as seen when Leon McKenzie visited them recently.
“We saw Leon McKenzie in last week, and although I can speak about the subjects we put on really well, what we lack is coming from a professional football background.
“Leon came in and spoke, and he nailed it in terms of focusing on making a living in the game and making a career after. We’ve got to find a way to bring in more ex-players, and we are doing that.
“We’ve got Grant Holt, Jeremy Goss, Adam Drury and Dean Ashton coming in to hammer the message to the lads that as they go through their careers these challenges will always be there.”