Marcus Rashford is the latest of a wave of young footballers using their immense online presence to affect change off the pitch.
It was announced recently that the Government would make a U-turn on cancelling the school meal voucher policy after Rashford wrote an open letter to MPS calling for exactly that.
It is clear that the UK should not have to rely on a 22-year-old, BAME footballer to lead the conversation on child poverty. However, with dozens of sitting MPs, including Conservatives, having already written to the Cabinet about the school meals issue only to be totally ignored, this is the reality within which we find ourselves today.
Some people believe that footballers and sportspeople in general should remain apolitical, desiring a clean separation between sports and politics. However, Rashford has used the platform he has gained from his skills on the pitch to ensure thousands upon thousands of children will not starve this summer. At a time when COVID-19 has increased the burden on the nation’s most vulnerable, such a positive change will hopefully quieten this separatist crowd in the future.
Other players, such as Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings, have rallied support for the Black Lives Matter movement and for wider systemic change when it comes to tackling racism in football. Kick it Out’s Head of Development, Troy Townsend, has said football is still very slow to combat racism, both in the crowds and in its institutions.
Senior figures in UK football like Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, and England manager Gareth Southgate, have voiced their pride in this new outspoken young generation, and the courage they have displayed in tackling social issues head on.
More and more of this new crop of young players continue to use their presence, particularly on social media, to speak out for actionable change, both inside and outside of the football world. As they do so, there is a feeling that they may finally be turning the tide on football’s institutional racism and lack of representation embedded so deep within its governing bodies.