HENRY WINTER, author and one of the most renowned football journalists in the world, spoke to BCOMS intern Anish Dogra about the work the organization’s founder, Leon Mann, has done to change the media for the better. Also why football must continue the fight to stamp out racism for good.
“A catalyst for change”. That was the phrase Henry Winter used to depict the amazing work that Leon Mann has done in striving to diversify the sports media through his work with several companies and with his organisation the Black Collective Of Media in Sport (BCOMS). Speaking to one of their interns, Anish Dogra, Winter could not help but be impressed with Leon’s work and the aura he gives to his colleagues, friends and mentees. “Leon has been huge, I think he’s been vital whether it’s been going into organisations or if he is just helping people,” he said.
Henry’s quotes couldn’t be truer, as an intern it is clear to see the impact Leon has had on those gaining experience in the media as well as the advice, guidance and support he offers in ensuring everyone’s careers fly as high as possible. To quote Professor Albus Dumbeldore “help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it”, it’s fair to say Leon has been casting his spells at the school of BCOMS for some time and it has returned with tremendous success.
Whilst it has taken a great deal of time and effort it is undoubtedly clear to see the work Mr Mann has done so far in creating a different media. As exemplified by the visits to Stamford Bridge for three BCOMS interns as well as features by Anish and Keanu Rattray for The FA.
“Leon has been working hard in the background, he’s got so much energy and is so likeable, if he asked me to go to an event, I’d immediately be there because it’s Leon”. A fitting comment from Henry who attended the 2019 Football Black List awards, a ceremony co-founded by Leon Mann to celebrate all the incredible achievements of Black people in football.
Sport and Football specifically has gone through a lot over the last ten months with suspensions due to COVID-19, postponed games and players being affected by the virus. Yet something that has spoiled our game considerably for a prolonged period in recent history is racism. As the chief football reporter for The Times, Henry sadly covers racism with his reporting of England and as we have seen in the past in games against Montenegro and Bulgaria most if not all the Black England players suffer horrific abuse from people in the crowd who call themselves “supporters”.
Thankfully, however in the past year we have seen a significant change from governing bodies in tackling the issue with the Premier League driving their “No room for racism” campaign, players taking the knee before the start of every game and clubs displaying “Black Lives Matter” banners across the empty seats in their stadiums whilst fans aren’t allowed into grounds.
Talking to John Barnes who opened Henry’s eyes about racism showcases why the reporter is yearning for a diverse media who can change the way football is perceived to those who require an education about race. “The more voices we have talking about football reflecting the game, the better the coverage will be. Take the FA board, if there was greater diversity the game would be a better place thus providing better governance of the game”
“I think Leon is a catalyst for change. His general guidance and because he’s such an engaging character, you never feel like being lectured and no one feels their work is wrong, it will only make the industry more open and diverse. being a nice and principled person is a catalyst for change.”
Change is something we have all come to expect in every aspect of life, whether that’s wearing face coverings in stores, supermarkets and football stadiums or keeping at least 2 metres apart. It is also something we hope to enforce for the better such as increasing the amount of BAME and female journalists in the media, stamping out racism for good and highlighting the incredible work already being done by those in the media who aren’t being given the credit for what they already do. With Leon at the helm with his armoury of BCOMS members, the face of this industry is changing for the better and making the game we all love a better place for players, managers, supporters and journalists.
By Anish Dogra