Black Voices in Conversation: Footballer Leroy Rosenior on fighting for equality on and off the pitch

Black Voices In Conversation is a new series of interviews by ITV News to mark Black History Month 2020.

We have spoken to groundbreaking individuals from the black community to learn about their life experiences and to hear their vision for the future.

ITV West Country journalist, Alpha Ceesay, sat down with former Bristol City player and Torquay United manager, Leroy Rosenior MBE on his fight for racial equality on and off the pitch.

"I want a society where there is racial equality and I'm doing everything I can to make that happen."

He has done it all when it comes to football.

Leroy Rosenior MBE has had close to 40 years in the game as a player, coach, manager, and pundit. Over that time he has faced abuse and discrimination from players and fans alike.

He is now using those experiences through his work with Show Racism the Red Card to ensure future generations of black British footballers do not suffer as he did.

"I realised early on that if I wanted to have a professional career I would not just have to put up with racism, I would have to learn to handle it," Leroy says.

Leroy Rosenior early on in his career as a teenager at Fulham. Credit: PA Images

No one was talking about mental health when I was playing. No one was talking about the effects on you as an individual. If I had said something about it, it would have come out as you've got a chip on your shoulder.

Leroy Rosenior MBE

After more than a decade in the game, Leroy made his first move outside of London when he signed for Bristol City in 1992. And for the most part he loved it.

He says: "Bristol is an amazing city and it's an amazing place, so to come from London to Bristol was amazing in terms of the surroundings and the people. But there were occasions where it wasn't so fantastic."

He would go on to retire at City before moving into coaching, and eventually management with spells at the Robins and Gloucester City before ending up at Torquay United.

Torquay had gone more than a decade without achieving promotion. Then in 2002 came Leroy. With the full support of the chairman behind him, he lead the Gulls to League One after a dramatic final day of the season two years later.

Leroy describes the experience as "the best of his life".

Leroy during Torquay United's promotion celebrations. Credit: ITV News

At the time Leroy was one of only a handful of black managers in the English game. The importance of speaking out against the discrimination he faced during this era would only dawn on him after his time as a manager.

When I came out of Torquay, Show Racism the Red Card got in touch with me and I started to tell these stories about what happened to me. And then I realised just what a profound effect it has had on people and can have on people.

Leroy Rosenior MBE

Telling those stories has taken on an added importance this year following the death of George Floyd. The result, one of the most significant pushes for change across the board in recent history, including in sport.

Raheem Sterling has been one of those at the forefront of the fight for racial equality in football. Credit: PA Images

"I think now when people see things happening in the Premier League and all around the world, they think you know what? That's not right, so that's better," Leroy says.

"But what hasn't changed is that we're not doing enough to educate people to have an effect in areas where you can really implement change."

Young kids need to see there is a pathway, a chance for them. Because they see too often in their lives there's not that opportunity for them so they go off on a different path. It needs to be clear and obvious, that there is a pathway for them to be successful in their lives.

Leroy Rosenior MBE
  • Catch up with all of the latest Black Voices in Conversation interviews here.