Leon Mann is a figure best known for his in-depth interviews and campaigns against racism within the sports industry.
He is the co-founder of The Black List, an annual event celebrating the off-pitch achievements of black role models within the football industry.
For the 2018 edition, Palace for Life’s own, Susan Patterson-Smith, Deputy Director of Community Development, (pictured) was featured for her work in helping young people get into employment.
Mann continues to raise awareness of the racial prejudices that prohibit ethnic minorities from attaining senior positions within the industry: an uncomfortable topic that many tend to ignore.
Furthermore, he explains: “In the 80’s and 90’s racism was overt. You would see horrific scenes of bananas being thrown on the pitch and racial abuse being chanted at black players.
“Whilst this is no longer the case, we presently face other challenges such as the lack of representation at all areas of football outside of playing.
“It is widely sighted that one in three players come from a minority background and it has been like this for 10 to 20 years.
“However, when it comes to the chairmans and chief executives you could probably count them on one hand.
“This is the result of a long history of racism that started with slavery. It may sound bizarre as slavery existed in the 1800’s and before but history sets a tone for the present.
“If you were taught and subconsciously believe that black people are unintelligent, you are not going to want to see those people in charge of your football team.
“Campaigns such as Kick It Out, started the conversation about the levels of racial abuse.
“As a result, the governing bodies came under a pressure to act against these injustices.
“Self-policing is also a factor. You need people within groups to tell their colleagues that what they are doing is unacceptable.
“The first challenges that I faced were within myself. The self-doubt and disbelief that I couldn’t be a sports journalist due to those who were not looking like me.
“This is one of the reasons why I co-founded Football’s Black List – to reconstruct the way in which many black people, particularly the youth see themselves.
“Do we see ourselves as being leaders, directors, people running businesses at the top? Or do we see ourselves as only footballers and rappers? “
Since 1990, one in four – just under 25 per cent – of retired England international footballers have been black or from an ethnic minority background (BAME). But of those ex-players who have subsequently gone into a management job, that drops to just one in seven.
Brighton’s Chris Hughton is the only BAME manager in the Premier League
Mann added:“More encouragement is needed amongst the community. Professional figures succeeding in these respected careers need to be made visible.
“A lot is behind the scenes. I have been to meetings where people in the room were of colour and helped make important decisions.
“People were unaware of them until The Black List. Now, the youth can see these people and decide that they themselves can also go into this industry because people that look like them are.
“It also presents an opportunity for football to reflect back and question why we lack so much black and minority ethnic key figures and how we can change it.”