Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland visited Stoke-on-Trent College’s Cauldon Campus for a question and answer session about his role as a Kick It Out Ambassador.
The talk tackled racism and discrimination in football where pupils of the college in Shelton were given a chance to ask questions.
Kick It Out is a charity which aims to raise awareness by working with players, professional clubs, football authorities, fans and communities to stamp out racism and discrimination in the sport, of which Jack is an ambassador.
Butland told StaffsLive: “It’s a fantastic cause and a fantastic campaign to be a part of.
“I don’t like discrimination in the game and it’s not right. As a player if I can help improve that situation and help cut it out then that’s a brilliant positive from my side of things.
“I think campaigns like this are massively important. We’re role models on the pitch and when people come to games they see what happens in the stands as well.
“If there’s negativity going on like racism and discrimination then it’s only going to spread and end up in the outside world as well which is not what we want.
“From the position we’re in as players and clubs then we can put a foot down and kick it out from the game.
“It’s massively important and I think we’ve got the power to do that.”
Launched in 1993, Kick It Out has become a nationwide campaign, which covers everyone from primary school year four upwards to corporate clients.
They work closely with schools and colleges in educating pupils and giving them the opportunity to speak to their football ambassadors about campaign ideas and how to raise awareness.
Corey Buckley, 18, from Fenton, and Samantha Phillips, 18, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, were among the students at the talk.
They asked Jack about various issues including why men are higher paid than women.
Butland added: “I hate the discrimination and the racism.
“I’ve been part of a team that has had to deal with it and it’s a really tough situation to be in.
“Looking at the expressions on the players’ faces and how they must’ve felt during that time, it hurts you.
“It’s a horrible situation and is something that should never happen.
“We’re equal – everyone is the same and for people to be racially abused and discriminated against for no apparent reason is not acceptable and that’s something that hopefully we can cut out as players.
“We do work hard and we’re in a privileged position that we can help others in and hopefully we can make a change to the community and benefit people and give back to the people that are always supporting us.”
Paul Mortimer , Professional Player Engagement Manager at Kick It Out, led the 90-minute session.
He said: “For Jack to actually come in and speak to the pupils and see how they view it and learn more by listening to the pupils, it enables him to go back to his club and then if he recognises things at his club he’ll have more confidence having spoken publicly about it.
“What he can then do is really play a part at his club in educating some of the younger players who he’s a role model to as well.
“He’s not just a role model to these pupils – he’s a role model to players at his club so he has an opportunity to really inspire everyone that he comes into contact with.
“For me, it’s a real positive.
“Today was a challenge because initially the pupils were quite nervous to speak up so encouraging them to speak up was also a good challenge.
“The problem is that it’s a huge issue that needs the help not just from Kick It Out, but from fans, players, managers, executives and authorities.
“The most important thing for us is to be able to work with everyone in football, from grass roots up to the FA and authorities and that’s what we continue to do and quite successfully for a charity that’s so small.”
Watch StaffsLive‘s video report below:
(Additional reporting by Jessica Turnbull)