THE director of one of Sheffield’s best-known and most successful community organisations is to step down 16 years after its inception.
Howard Holmes helped set up Football Unites, Racism Divides in 1995 when a group of Sheffield United fans, including Howard, wanted to tackle the problem of racial abuse both in and around the Bramall Lane ground.
Involving fans, police, officials from United, and youth and community workers, the award-winning project has since gone on to become one of the country’s and Europe’s leading football anti-racism initiatives, engaging thousands of young people in a wide variety of different community initatives along the way.
Under Howard’s leadership, FURD helped uncover the long-lost history of Britain’s first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton, and discovered the talents of star footballer Kyle Walker, who was recently called into the England squad but was first spotted playing at one of FURD’s coaching sessions when he was aged just nine.
The project’s significance and importance to the local community was underlined last year when the government gave the go-ahead for the £3m U-Mix Centre off Bramall Lane, which will be FURD’s new purpose-built home when it opens next year.
Howard said: “FURD has been my proudest achievement in a long career spent working with young people in Sheffield. I’ve had some wonderfully exciting times and even got to meet Pele!
“We have a remarkable team of workers and young people at the project who are well-placed to fulfill the bright future for FURD represented by the new U-Mix centre.
“To be honest I don’t really want to leave but it’s time others had a go. I’m really looking forward to contributing to the Arthur Wharton Project and will always do my best to keep the project’s profile high and funded properly in these difficult days for youth services and young people.”
Although stepping down as director, Howard will continue his involvement with FURD, both through the Arthur Wharton Heritage Project and a research project on the ability of football to break down social barriers.
He will also promote fundraising efforts for FURD.
From October, FURD will be run by Meh-run Ahmed and Simon Hyacinth as joint project co-ordinators.