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Women's History Month: Championing diversity in football

CHAMP: Hayley Bennett

HAYLEY BENNETT is Education Officer at Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation.

Bennett joined Kick It Out initially as a volunteer in May 2013 whilst studying for a degree in politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). After graduating in 2014, Bennett took up a full time position at Kick It Out, leading the creation of the organisation’s first ever Education Programme.

She is passionate about football, and equally passionate about equality, inclusion and diversity. Over the past three years, Bennett has made it her mission to share these passions with as many young people as possible through the education programme, which has worked with over 4,000 people to date.

This has seen her also create a pioneering training course for employees of the football industry with the Equality and Diversity Awareness in Football Award, in partnership with Southampton Solent University.

Bennett has also created a platform for young people to make a difference in the football industry through creating A.S.P.I.R.E. – Ambassadors Supporting and Promoting Inclusion, Respect and Equality – a young ambassador group for Kick It Out.

In 2016, Hayley was named a Rising Star in Sport by WeAreTheCity and recognised as ‘One to watch’ on Football’s Black List – an initiative celebrating influential black individuals in British football.


HARD AT WORK: Hayley Bennett on the job (photo credit: Eighth Wonder)

"I am inspired by young people. I am really lucky to work with amazing and switched on young people who inspire me with their ideas every day. When it comes to discrimination in football you can feel like your back is against the wall, but I am inspired by the positive attitudes of young people involved in the game and I believe the future of the sport will be diverse when they become the future leaders in football.

"My role models are Nelson Mandela and my sister! Due to the racism I experienced as a mixed-race child, when I was growing up I wanted to be just like Nelson Mandela, changing the world for the better. I thought I would do that by studying politics at university! Since then I’ve recognised the difference you can make at the grassroots and local level. I put a lot of pressure on myself but my sister taught me to be ambitious and I’ve followed in her footsteps.

"The best part of my job is seeing people begin to appreciate another perspective and challenge their own prejudice through our workshops.

"Football can be a powerful mechanism in tackling racist and discriminatory attitudes. I truly believe Kick It Out’s work is helping to shape future generations that will be able to remove discrimination from the game.

"In my spare time I like to try to go out to as many events as possible, when I'm not watching football. There are always interesting art or history exhibitions happening in London that I try to check out. I try and go to St. Lucia as often as I can to see family and get some much needed sun!

"I would tell my younger self to stop panicking about the future and be patient for the right opportunity. When I was 20, I was rejected for over 200 jobs including a Hot Chicken Counter Assistant at Tesco before I took on a voluntary position at Kick It Out. Since then I’ve worked my way up from volunteer to my current role.

"I am determined to see football to get to a place where everyone involved in the game truly understands the importance of diversity and representation; only then will we see a change.

"Education is massively important to this and I want to reach as many people as possible who will go on to be future leaders.

You can find out more about Hayley by visiting @HayleyKIO on Twitter or by clicking here.

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