World’s first black professional footballer to be officially recognised at National Football Centre to kick off a year of milestones in his honour
Monday 10 March, St. George’s Park, Burton-upon-Trent: 125 years after becoming the world’s first black professional footballer after signing for Rotherham United in 1889, Arthur Wharton will be memorialised as a statue at St Georges Park, The National Football Centre in Burton-upon-Trent.
The Arthur Wharton Foundation, in collaboration with The Football Association, is set to unveil the full-scale statue of Arthur prominently in the grounds of the facility, which is also home to The FA’s coach education department, FA Learning. The 16ft bronze statue was designed and made by leading sculptor Vivien Mallock.
The statue will be flanked by education materials supplied by the Arthur Wharton Foundation and Sheffield based Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) project, including a comic, a film, exhibition and a range of presentations aimed at Key Stage 3 students, talking about the significance of Arthur historically and in 2014. These materials are backed by the Heritage Lottery Project and the PFA.
In addition, a second statue is due to be erected at the New York Stadium, home of Rotherham United, later in the year.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Wharton moved to England, aged 19, in 1882 and went on to feature as a goalkeeper for his home-town club Darlington FC, as well as representing Rotherham United, Preston North End, and Sheffield United.
An all-round sportsman and athlete, Wharton became the first official 100-yard world record holder and world champion in 1886, with a time of 10 seconds at the AAA Championships in London.
Wharton was also a professional cricketer, cycling champion and rugby player in his pomp, regarded by many as one of the early pioneers and trailblazers in sport, achieving unparalleled success in the face of adversity.
Shaun Campbell, Founder of The Arthur Wharton Foundation, said: “We are hugely honoured and privileged to have received such fantastic support from The FA throughout our campaign helping raise awareness of Arthur’s achievements.
“Having a statue in Arthur’s honour erected at St. George’s Park is testament to that support, and we also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the wonderful and tangible support that we have received from other stakeholders including FIFA, UEFA, and the PFA throughout this campaign.”
FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, said: “We’re delighted not only to give Arthur a permanent home, but to tell his story throughout St. George’s Park. Everyone who visits our wonderful facility will learn of his significance historically, and his remarkable achievements.”
St. George’s Park Chairman, David Sheepshanks CBE, said “I am really pleased that St. George’s Park will be the home of this iconic new statue in honour of Arthur Wharton. He was truly a pioneer of his time and it is remarkable to think about the adversity he had to overcome to achieve what he did.
“St. George’s Park is increasingly playing its part as a brains trust for the game, where so many different people in different aspects of football assemble, so it is only fitting that we are able to honour Arthur’s achievements right here at the National Football Centre.
“We hope that this statue will both educate and inspire a new generation of coaches and players from all backgrounds and specifically black and minority ethnic backgrounds.”