I took up my role Executive Vice Chairman of the Millwall Community Trust in October 2019 and recently signed a new four-year agreement.
So many good things have happened over the past 12 months despite the challenges faced in the biggest health crisis in our lifetime. We have a new four-year business plan and in the lifetime of that plan the stadium will undergo a major transformation to increase capacity to 34,000 and there will be 4,500 apartments constructed around the redeveloped stadium together with a hotel, a new media college, extended community facilities and shops and a new train link.
In much the same way as in my time at Charlton when we developed CARE (Charlton Athletic Race Equality Partnership) into a vehicle for change, we have introduced a comprehensive new diversity strategy and are in the process of implementing elements of it. The Trust appointed Jason Vincent as its first black trustee, and he has been at the forefront of our efforts in this area.
When I first went to Charlton there were racist elements around the club, and we tackled the issue head on. One of the highlights of my time at Charlton was when in 2011 the new board accepted my recommendation to appoint Chris Powell as the new manager. Apart from Chris’s talents as a coach, he is a fantastic person, and his appointment made a much bigger statement than any words could.
Without the support of Steve Kavanagh for that recommendation it may never have happened and winning the League One Championship in 2012 and then finishing 9th in the Championship may not have been key entries in the club’s history book. Steve is now the CEO at Millwall, and you will not find anyone as passionate about tackling racism head on and promoting genuine diversity. This extends to his excellent management team and all of the hard working trustees who sit on the board of Millwall’s Community Trust.
The events at the home match with Derby County FC and the negative reaction to taking the knee before kick-off was a blow to everyone involved in the progressive work taking place. This week (as with last week) the wider media was planning to give extensive coverage to the ‘Hospital Heroes – We do Care’ initiative and that will now be completely overshadowed by these events.
Throwing in the towel is not an option and this type of behaviour only makes us all more determined than ever to defeat racism and promote diversity. Those that preach hate and division must not win for all our sakes.
Back in the day we had hurdles to negotiate at Charlton and we did it through education and standing up for what we believe in and that must be the approach here. I can already hear the voices of doom saying we are all wasting our time, but do they suggest we all just give up. Failure is not an option.
To their credit the club has addressed the issue head on. It has released an official statement condemning the incident and saying that club representatives will meet with Kick It Out and representatives from other appropriate bodies ‘in an attempt to use Saturday’s events as a catalyst for more rapid solutions’.
As the statement rightly said “the club has worked tirelessly in recent months to prepare for the return of supporters and what should have been a positive and exciting occasion was completely overshadowed, much to the immense disappointment and upset of those who have contributed to those efforts……….the club will not allow their fine work to be in vain. The players are continuing to use the biggest platform they have to support the drive for change, not just in football but in society generally…..there is much work to be done and at Millwall everyone is committed to doing all that is possible, both individually and collectively, to be a force for good and to ensure that the club remains at the forefront of football’s anti-discrimination efforts.”
Every decent right-minded person has to stand up for what they believe in in this type of situation and trust me those of us involved at the sharp end will be doing just that.
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