It will be a special game at New York Stadium on Tuesday 5th August when Rotherham United, newly promoted to The Championship, entertain Leicester City who return to the Premier League this season having won The Championship title last season.
The pre-season fixture will be heralded to kick start the fundraising campaign for the Arthur Wharton Statue which is to be sited at the New York Stadium to mark the achievements of this remarkable man who pioneered the way and created a heritage for black footballers in this country.
Kick It Out will be supporting the game along with many celebrities from the world of sport and show business who are fighting to keep racism out of football.
The project is the brainchild of businessman Jim Cadman who is working with renowned sculptor Graham Ibbeson to create the statue. Mr Ibbeson, who has created world famous statues including those of Eric Morecambe, William Webb-Ellis and Don Revie, will sculpt the statue.
“This game will be a stage to recognise Arthur Wharton on the 125th anniversary of him signing for Rotherham in 1889 to become the world’s first black professional footballer,” said Chairman Tony Stewart.
“It will be the start of a privately led fundraising initiative to site a statue of Arthur Wharton outside New York Stadium. It will be led by Jim Cadman with the support of Rotherham United Football Club and other key partners involved in the project.”
Jim Cadman, Chairman, Rotherham Sporting Guild, added:
“The strategy for this wonderful bronze statue will be to involve the local community in Rotherham, Millers fans throughout the country and football supporters all over world. It will celebrate the cultural and social breakthrough in our national game started by Arthur Wharton in Rotherham 125 years ago.”
The project is also being back by Kick it Out and former England International Cyrille Regis.
"Arthur Wharton is one of the game’s true pioneers,” said Lord Herman Ouseley, Chairman of Kick it Out.
"His story is a great inspiration, and the contribution he made in paving the way for future generations of black footballers should be recognised more widely.
"To have a statue erected in Rotherham, where Arthur became the first black professional footballer after making his debut in the town 125 years ago is incredibly fitting.
"Kick It Out is fully supportive of this fundraising drive, and praises Rotherham United FC and Rotherham Sporting Heritage Guild for promoting Arthur's legacy in the local community and beyond."
Former West Brom striker Regis, who helped launch the project at New York Stadium, added:
“‘This tribute to Arthur Wharton represents the start of the journey and progression made by black professional footballers over the past 125 years. My own generation of black players suffered abuse on the pitch and aggressive racism from the crowds at games in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s but we overcame it to motivate ourselves to become role models for future generations of young black footballers. Rotherham United and their supporters should be very proud to have this permanent tribute to Arthur Wharton outside their wonderful new stadium.”