Tuesday 12 October 2021
The Aston Villa and England defender, Tyrone Mings, spoke out in support of the all-woman team of officials at England’s game against Andorra. It’s not the first time he has stuck his head above the parapet.
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
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Today, Tyrone Mings, the ally.
On Saturday, history was made. For the first time England’s men – playing a World Cup qualifier against Andorra – were refereed by an all-female team.
Ukraine’s Kateryna Monzul was the ref. Maryna Striletska and Svitlana Grushko were the assistants. And Stephanie Frappart of France was the VAR.
“Monzul has refereed at the women’s World Cups and Euros and in November 2020 was part of the first all-female refereeing team to take charge of a senior men’s international… that was San Marino against Gibraltar in the Nations League.”Sky Sports News
Michelle Owen, a presenter on Sky, posted a photo on Twitter. The caption? “For every little girl… this is massive.”
The England defender Tyrone Mings was quick to respond. “Absolutely brilliant, isn’t it?”, he wrote.
And that sort of support matters as it signalled that he – Tyrone Mings – was an ally.
But what does that mean, exactly?
According to a definition online, it means recognising one’s privilege and using it to support people who might experience inequality.
Mings was using his influence and status as an England international to support the emergence of female referees at the highest level.
It wasn’t a one-off gesture.
In 2013 – six years before his first England cap – Mings spent Christmas Day feeding homeless people at a shelter in Ipswich, where he was playing at the time.
He was being an ally. And him being there meant the local press came too. He was pictured with two men who used the shelter. It publicised helping the homeless. But it normalised it too because he revealed he knew first hand what it meant to be homeless.
“I wonder whether… all of these things that you do… you can trace right back to that period when you were living in a homeless shelter… living a life not of plenty.”
“Mmm. Absolutely. And I think like I said… I’ve seen what it’s like to be a football fan, or to be someone that needs help or needs a leg up in life and I mean… whilst I can’t dedicate my whole life to helping other people, we’re certainly in a position where we can help whether that be financially or obviously we’re quite restricted time wise in things that we can get involved in and can’t but certainly we can help financially, we can help by showing a little bit of empathy, we can help by understanding that erm… not everyone is in as fortunate position as us.”Tyrone Mings, speaking to Jake Humphrey
More recently, he’s worked on the “Heads Up” campaign, a collaboration between the Football Association and the mental health charity, Heads Together.
It aims to encourage men to talk about mental health, making it as normal as talking about football.
Mings has talked openly about his struggles at Euro 2020 with something called “imposter syndrome” – the thought that fans may not have considered him good enough to be in the squad.
That willingness to acknowledge one’s vulnerability is key to being an ally, to standing shoulder to shoulder with people who struggle in this way.
But opening up about his feelings – so that conversations around mental health become more normal – can’t have been easy for Mings.
And then came the most famous example of when he was an ally.
When asked about the England footballers taking the knee as a peaceful protest against racism and inequality, Home Secretary Priti Patel labeled it “gesture politics”.
“I just don’t support… you know… people participating in… you know… that type of gesture… gesture politics to a certain extent as well. It’s all well to support a cause and… you know make your voices heard, but actually quite frankly and we saw last year in particular with some of the protests that took place… I speak now very much from what I saw and the impact on policing.”
“Do you think the England fans are right to boo?”
“Well… that’s a choice for them quite frankly…”
“Would you be booing if you were in the stands?”
“Well… I… I… I haven’t even gone to a football match to even sort of you know contemplate that.”Priti Patel, GB News
But then, when England’s Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were racially abused online following their missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final – Priti Patel said it was “vile and unacceptable”.
Tyrone Mings responded.
He wrote on Twitter: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens.”
The tweet did its job. It prompted debate, not least in parliament.
“Tyrone Mings… Tyrone Mings said… and the house might want to listen… he said this… labelling anti-racism messages as gesture politics serve to stoke the fire of racism and hatred. Prime Minister… powerful words from someone who himself has been subjected to racist abuse. He’s right isn’t he?”Keir Starmer
“Mr. Speaker, we made it absolutely clear that no-one should boo the England team…”Boris Johnson
You could say when Tyrone Mings took on the Home Secretary he was merely standing up for himself as a black footballer.
But wasn’t he also speaking up for other black players?
In particular, wasn’t he being an ally to his younger team-mates, the ones who had been racially abused for missing those penalties?
He used his profile as a senior England footballer to change the conversation – just like he did with the female refereeing team at the weekend.
According to the definition, that’s what allyship is all about.
Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Studio Klong.