The drama surrounding Everton’s Board of Directors continues to unfold following club Chairman Bill Kenwright’s open letter which addresses the demands of the fan group All Together Now. As the group continues to call for the sacking of the entire Everton board, the Twitterati has been split. While the majority want Kenwright and the Everton board gone, some fans have also questioned the philosophy of the Everton fan group.
The recent controversy encircling the fan group and Everton’s board of directors leads us to take a deep dive into Everton’s #AllTogetherNow group.
All Together Now Everton (ATNE) is a group of Everton supporters who came together in 2018 with the idea of helping the footballing community as a whole. Primarily aimed at promoting inclusion, diversity, and equality within Everton FC, the group works toward refining the football community for the people who have been abused or left underprivileged. An incident of racist abuse directed at former Everton player Yannick Bolasie on social media, amid rising cases of racism in football was the driving force for the group to lay its grounds.
The name of the group, All Together Now, has its roots running deep into the rich history of Everton FC. It was inspired by the famous Farm song of the same name, which has become an anthem for the fans of the club. The name “All Together Now” is a nod to the Toffees’ 1994/95 FA Cup run, which was the origin of Everton’s version of the iconic song.
The primary goal of All Together Now Everton is to foster an atmosphere of inclusivity, respect, and support within the club and its surrounding community, and over the course of nearly half a decade, the group has been largely successful in checking all the fundamental boxes. The group has been committed to promoting diversity and equality, both on and off the pitch, and to ensuring that everyone who loves Everton feels welcome and valued.
Since its inception, ATNE has been working tirelessly to make Everton FC an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
The group has been involved in a range of initiatives and activities aimed at promoting diversity and breaking down barriers within the club and its community. Campaigns and charity events by the group have been major activities in helping the club towards tackling the social malpractices that have become ever-present in the world of football.
At the time of the All Together Now launch, Everton CEO, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, said: “Throughout our 140-year history, we have been regularly recognized as a family-orientated Club with proud traditions and values.
“We are committed and dedicated to embracing equality and diversity in everything that we do. The launch of our new equality campaign All Together Now says it all, we want to be an ‘Everton family for everyone’ and will not stop in our mission to drive equality through the positive power of football.”
One of the key objectives of All Together Now Everton is to tackle discrimination and promote equality within football.
The campaign, which was launched in 2018, aims to promote diversity in football. As part of the campaign, Everton became the first Premier League club to sign the “Football Leadership Diversity Code,” which sets out a series of principles and targets aimed at increasing diversity and representation within football. The Toffees led the way, and other clubs followed suit.
The Merseyside club were also the first to present a code of conduct for fans attending Everton matches. The idea was an instant hit amid cases of rising racial abuse inside stadiums and has since been adopted by a number of other football clubs. Launched in 2019, the code of conduct outlined expected behaviour for fans, focusing on respect, inclusivity, and zero tolerance for any form of discrimination or abuse.
The group has also been involved in a range of community initiatives aimed at breaking down barriers and promoting social cohesion. For example, in 2020, ATNE launched the “Goodison Sleepout” event, which aimed to raise awareness of homelessness and poverty in the local area.
The event, which was held at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium, saw supporters sleep outside for a night to raise funds for local charities. In the same year, the group was awarded the Fans For Diversity Award by the Football Supporters’ Association, in recognition of their efforts to promote diversity and equality at the club.
One of the group’s most high-profile initiatives was the launch of a banner campaign to promote inclusivity and diversity within the club. The banner, which was displayed at Everton’s home matches, featured the words “All Together Now” alongside images of fans from different backgrounds and communities. The banner quickly became a symbol of the group’s commitment to promoting inclusivity and respect within the club and the wider football community.
In 2020, All Together Now Everton played a key role in the launch of the Everton Women’s Supporters’ Club. The group worked with the club to establish the new supporters’ club, which aims to promote women’s football and increase the representation of women within the fanbase. The launch of the supporters’ club was a significant step forward for women’s football, and it is a testament to All Together Now Everton’s commitment to promoting equal opportunities for everybody both on and off the pitch.
In 2022, Everton became the first Premier League club to be a part of the #HerGameToo movement which aims to raise awareness of sexist abuse within and around football. Everton’s backing for #HerGameToo, was following the Club’s pledge to #GetOnSide – a campaign to encourage fans, clubs and organizations to actively promote change when it comes to gender equality.
One of the ways in which the group has had a tangible impact on the club is through its work with the Everton in the Community (EITC) program. Situated at The People’s Hub EItC is the official charity of Everton Football Club, and works to improve the lives of people in the local community through a range of initiatives, including health and wellbeing programs, education and employment support, and community engagement projects.
As recent as in March of 2023, the club’s official sources reported how the club has been working on turning Goodison Park into England’s most accessible stadium for the specially-abled fans of the sport. “We are aiming to have the highest number of accessible seating in the Premier League and want to ensure that our disabled supporters have a choice in what kind of view of the game they want,” said an Everton official through Everton’s website.
The Everton Disabled Supporters Association (EDSA) itself has been one of the major projects of the ATNE group. The association caters for the needs of specially-abled fans of the Merseyside club, assisting the stadium-going fans on matchdays.
Cervical cancer, employees’ mental health, women’s football and misogynistic approach towards football are some of the important projects the All Together Now Everton group has worked on over the years.
The group has also catered towards some of its less-facilitated supporters.
For example, the group officially launched supporters’ clubs in Nairobi which were publicized as some of the major footballing developments in Kenya’s footballing history. The Toffees played a historic friendly match against Kariobangi Sharks in Nairobi. The charity took part in a series of football coaching and multi-sports sessions for the young children of Kariobangi, female-only exercise and fitness activities, as well as health and wellbeing sessions for young males, the Everton in the Community coaches worked to leave a lasting legacy in the area.
In addition to its community work, ATNE has also been involved in a range of campaigning activities aimed at promoting equality and tackling discrimination within football. For example, the group has been a vocal advocate for the introduction of the “Rooney Rule” in football, which would require clubs to interview at least one BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) candidate for all coaching and management positions.
In one of the most brilliant innovations by a football club, the ATNE in 2020 launched a campaign called “All Together Now – Stop The Hate”, which aimed to raise awareness about the issue of online abuse directed at football fans.
Instances of online abuse towards footballers and football fans have unfortunately been on an all-time high in the past few years, resulting in the campaign being a massive success. It encouraged fans to report any abuse they had witnessed or experienced.
For all its charitable and moral work, the group has naturally received support from a number of high-profile figures within the football world. Former Everton player, Leon Osman, spoke out in support of the group, saying “I’m fully behind what All Together Now Everton are trying to do. They’re creating a safe and inclusive space for all Evertonians to come together and support the club, regardless of their background or identity.”
The ATNE program is the first of its kind in English football. Thus, when the group’s works and ideas received worldwide recognition, needless to say, awards and widespread praise followed.
In 2021, Everton’s ongoing commitment to the All Together Now program was rewarded as the club landed the ‘Kick it Out Promoting Inclusion’ award at the 2021 North West Football Awards. The Club also achieved the ‘Champion of Champions’ at the inaugural Autism Gold Awards after training 250 of its staff in autism awareness.
Over the years though, ATNE’s work has not been without challenges. They have faced criticism and pushback from some fans who feel that the group is “politicizing” football and taking away from the game itself. Some fans have also been resistant to the group’s focus on issues of diversity and inclusion, arguing that many of the issues catered by the group have no relation to football.
A major controversy surrounding the campaign rose around the design of the special edition shirts that were released as part of the campaign. The warm-up shirt featured a rainbow-coloured rendition intended to promote LGBTQ+ inclusivity. However, some fans criticized the design, saying that it deviated too far from the club’s traditional blue-and-white colours.
They argued that the shirt should have been blue with a rainbow trim or logo, rather than completely changing the club’s colours. Homophobia being an extremely sensitive topic of debate, many fans also felt that the design was too “politically correct” and that the club was trying too hard to appeal to a certain demographic.
One of the more recent topics of debate among fans of the sport has been the aforementioned All Now Together Everton’s campaign vouching for the removal of the club’s chairman Bill Kenwright, along with other members of the Everton board of directors. Amid a difficult on-pitch season for the Toffees, a collection of fans representing the #AllTogetherNow movement, that have been staged before each home game this season, demand changes in the running of the club via an open letter.
Among other reasons, the movement’s letter made mention of Kenwright’s ill health over the past few years as being a potential impediment to his running of the club. Kenwright has been suffering from ill health for a very long time and the man himself stated a few years ago, “I won’t be here five years from now, my doctor won’t allow it.” Fans have raised concerns over his health, demanding club owner Farhad Moshiri let the chairman be relieved of his duties.
The letter in question was met with a response from Kenwright himself. The chairman directly addressed the concerns raised in the movement, where he defended the calibre of the board’s individual members. “The Chairman does not run the football club. We have a CEO who does that.” was one of the first statements by Kenwright in the enormous response to fans’ demands. The 77-year-old also thrashed the idea of fans attacking the club’s board members using banners.
The demands and methods of ATNE that have been displayed throughout the 22/23 season has piled up negative responses from both fans and critics of the club. As the open letter from Bill Kenwright suggests, the Everton hierarchy does not back the ideas the group have been wanting to implement all season long and have rigorously despised the protests that have been displayed all season.
However, despite the limited negative PR towards the group, the work of All Together Now Everton has had a significant impact on the club and the wider football community. The group’s primary commitment to promoting inclusivity and respect has helped to create a more welcoming and supportive environment for everyone associated with Everton and has also contributed to a wider movement for change within football.
Though some of the ideas or methods of implementation might be tagged as “extremist” by some viewers, the majority of the group’s work have come up as a historic step by a football club towards making the footballing community a better place to be.
By promoting diversity, inclusivity, and respect, All Together Now Everton has demonstrated that football can be a force for good, and has inspired others to join the fight against discrimination and abuse in all its forms.
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