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Happy birthday to us!

A Decade of action to tackle racism through the power of football will be marked by one of Sheffield’s more unusual events of the year.

Football Unites Racism Divides stages its 10th anniversary celebration with the backing of Sheffield United at the club’s Bramall Lane ground on 11th November.

The impressive guest list includes former players such as Luther Blissett, Brendon Batson and Howard Gayle, and current Championship-topping Blades stars, as well as Minister for Sport Richard Caborn, Lord Mayor of Sheffield and Jan Wilson, Leader of Sheffield Council.

But the entertainment is likely to raise even more eyebrows than the guests with Nottingham Forest’s European Cup winning player Frank Clark playing guitar, and high hopes that other musical ex-players can be persuaded to dust off their chosen instruments.

It promises to be a very special night. Whilst there are still issues about racism in the game that need addressing, it’s right we celebrate the tremendous things we have achieved and the hard work of the people involved.

Football Unites was formed in the wake of racist attacks on Asian and Somali young people, as well as anecdotal evidence of low-level abuse of local black and Asian residents when Sheffield United played at home. Its work now spreads across the city and country and it has an international reputation as one of the leading anti-racism organisations in football.

We decided not only to tackle racism in football but also to use football to fight racism in the wider community and to use it to bring people together. Racism has changed since we started and so have our responses to it. We have had the hysteria about asylum seekers, the events of 9/11 and the growth in Islamophobia - whilst the London bombings have tragically highlighted the dangers of people feeling excluded.

The monkey noises and banana throwing may have largely gone from the British game but many issues remain. There are few black and Asian spectators at professional games, only a handful of Asian professional players and few black managers and coaches.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association – which is co-sponsoring the anniversary event with Sheffield United – said the work of FURD had been “outstanding”.

He added: “FURD has worked tirelessly during the past decade to ensure that the message of unity in football is spread to community groups, school children, amateur and professional players and football fans across the country. “

The celebration event is by invitation only.

A 28 page review, ‘Football Unites, Racism Divides: the first ten years 1995 – 2005’, is available. Contact Football Unites if you’d like a printed copy. A PDF will soon be available to download from our website.

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