As a part of Black History Month 2017 the Paul Canoville Foundation, supported by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, hosted Football Firsts – an event celebrating the achievements, experiences and legacies of black players across the decades.
Paul Canoville was unable to attend due to his recent hospitalisation, but addressed the audience in pre-recorded video from his hospital bed, and representatives of the Paul Canoville Foundation addressed the audience.
The audience then heard from Hope Powell, a former player and manager of the England Women's team, Chris Ramsey former player, manager and now technical director at Queens Park Rangers, Howard Gayle the first black footballer to play for Liverpool, Ricky Hill who played for England and Luton Town and Andy Impey who played for QPR and West Ham.
The Chelsea FC connection was strongly represented in Paul’s absence with both Pat Nevin, who famously supported Paul in his darkest days facing racism in football, and former Chelsea and Celtic captain Paul Elliot contributing prominently during proceedings.
The event was compered by the broadcaster Geoff Schumann who told The Voice Newspaper:
"I felt it essential to honour some of the modern day pioneers of the beautiful game and encourage them to tell their stories to true fans like myself. I wanted to create an evening where the general public could get up close and personal with some of their former heroes and heroines, to hear first-hand stories about their struggles within the context of a live audience. Although we’ve come a long way, it’s still worthwhile to look back to understand exactly how far we’ve come, as well as look forward and seek out ways to make continued progress.
Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said:
"We were delighted to host the Paul Canoville Foundation's event for Black History Month, which highlighted the challenges faced by black footballers, and celebrated their achievements in the game. Hammersmith & Fulham is proud to be home to three top football clubs, and the stories we heard from pioneers of the game both local, and national, showed both how much can be done in times of adversity, and how much we can still do to achieve true equality of opportunity for all. I'd like to thank Paul, and all who participated in the Football Firsts event, for an evening that was as emotionally affecting, as it was educational."
The Paul Canoville Foundation would like to thank all the panel, attendees, and our supporters at Hammersmith and Fulham Council, the Professional Footballers Association, Kick It Out and the Football Association without whom the event could not have happened.