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Alena Moulton, Louise McGing, Dave Regis and Butch Fazal at the Black History Month Conference.

On Sunday 29 October 2023, more than 250 coaches and delegates from across the country gathered at St George’s Park to celebrate Black History Month with a series of panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities carefully designed to inspire and celebrate diversity within the national coaching community.

Focusing on the overarching theme of ‘Saluting our Sisters and Celebrating Black Coaches’, the conference was hosted by the England Football Learning Diversity & Inclusion Coach Development Team comprising National Coach Development Lead (Diversity & Inclusion) Lawrence Lok, and D&I Regional Coach Development Officers (D&I) Sarah Lowden, Peter Augustine, Lee Brown, Pav Singh, Nimesh Patel, Abdoullah Kheir, Danny Fenner and Matt Jones. 

The day kicked off with an opening speech from Lawrence Lok, who asked everyone to make a continuing pledge to be an ally and advocate for black women, not only those belonging to the football family. 

The panel discussions commenced with an ‘Insight into a Mentoring Journey’ session. FA Coach Mentor and EDI Ambassador Estelle Handy and Grassroots coach De Perez Douglas took to the stage to give insight into their coaching journeys. Estelle began her coaching life with a local U7s boys’ team in Dagenham, before recently assuming her role as U16s Lionesses coach, following participating in our Mentee Development Programme.

Diversity and Inclusion Manager Butch Fazal then hosted a panel discussion alongside General Manager of Charlton Athletic Women Louise McGing, Professional Player to Coach Manager for the Premier League Dave Regis, and former Stoke City Women’s Head Coach Alena Moulton.

The guest speakers shared their experiences in the game, as well as commemorating the role models who inspired them to get started in coaching.

The panel sessions continued with Clayton Donaldson (Farsley Celtic player/Manager), Otis Roberts (CEO of Jason Roberts Foundation) and Hilaal Ali (Mentee Development Programme Coach), who openly discussed the barriers for coaches from underrepresented backgrounds, and how they’ve been able to overcome them with the continued support from Coach Developers.

The afternoon session saw coaches and delegates take to St. George’s Park’s Sir Alf Ramsey indoor 3G pitch for practical workshops and observations, where Warren Hackett and Pete Augustine delivered technical sessions focusing on both verbal and non-verbal communication, before an 11v11 in-game tactical strategy workshop. 

After the conference, Lawrence Lok commented on the significance of events like the Black History Month Conference in helping to eliminate barriers, create opportunities and drive participation across the entire coaching landscape.

“Today is about celebrating Black History Month and saluting our sisters. We’ve been working on the conference for the last year or so, we’ve had regional roadshows throughout the month, and we’re now celebrating the month by bringing coaches to St. George’s Park.

“It’s about connecting coaches, allowing them to make new contacts and inspire one another. It’s important that we diversify the coaching workforce throughout grassroots because people in some communities might not see football for them, however, if they see someone who looks like them and understands their culture, beliefs and values then through coaching it will inspire kids to play and build connections and fall in love with football.”

The conference came to a close with a final panel discussion led by FA Youth Coach Developer Taff Rahman spoke to Sian Marie Fitzpatrick (Millwall Girls Academy Manager), Charlotte Akester (FA National Youth Vice-Chair) and Michaela Gooden (Sports Agent) discussed planning for the future, as well as continuing the conversation of the importance of diversity and inclusion within the football community. 

The Black History Month Conference formed part of our wider objective of improving the diversity of the football workforce across all levels of the game and driving participation by reaching new coaches from underrepresented backgrounds.