As part of the BBC Black and British Season, and BFI Black Star season, mac birmingham will host a premiere screening of Whites Vs Blacks: How Football Changed A Nation. The one hour film documents the 1979, Len Cantello testimonial match at West Bromwich Albion (WBA), which fielded an all-White team against an all-Black team. The film will be screened on Tuesday 15 November, 8.20pm followed by a Q&A, with a panel of former West Bromwich Albion players – Cyrille Regis, Ally Robertson and Stewart Phillips. Whites Vs Blacks: How Football Changed a Nation will have its national TV debut on BBC Two, Sunday 27 November at 9pm.
For the White team it was nothing more than a light-hearted gimmick, but for the Black players it represented so much more. It was a game they had to win. Racism was rife and black people were far from welcome on the pitch, in the stands or in the boardroom.
In this film, presenter Adrian Chiles journeys across England to discover the truths, taboos and real meaning behind this remarkable game. He uncovers rarely seen footage and reunites players from both teams, including Ally Robertson, Bob Hazell, George Berry and Brendan Batson. Together with Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis and Brendan Batson, known as the infamous Three Degrees. The Three Degrees were an integral part of the West Bromwich Albion team, and although experienced racism on and off the pitch, were accepted by both black and white football fans. On his journey Adrian also discovers the so-called Fourth Degree – left back player Vernon Hodgson, who 30 years on from the game, still resides in West Bromwich working as a refuse collector.
Adrian also meets the wives and girlfriends of some of the famous black players, including Laurie Cunningham’s former girlfriend, Nicky Brown, who provides an insight in to what it was like as an outsider, as well as a white woman dating a black man in provincial England during the 1970s. Adrian also meets the wives of Wolves players Bob Hazell and George Berry – Joy and Maureen – who share their experiences of being WAGS back in the day and victims of racism.
Today, around 30 per cent of English professionals are black. They are role models and superstars, some earning in excess of £100,000 a week. On the surface, everything seems rosy but how far have we really come?
Through encounters with former players including Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Dion Dublin, Adrian contrasts the attitudes and conflicts that swirled around that infamous game with the reality of being a black player in the modern era. As Adrian digs through the archive he finds a depressing litany of cases that suggest the spectre of racism is still haunting the game. This is confirmed by former Blackburn and Wigan striker Jason Roberts, Cyrille Regis’ nephew who shares his experiences of being on the receiving end of racism.
Ian Sergeant, mac Cinema and Screen Producer said: ‘This film is as important as the football match that took place. It’s a rare opportunity to see how much the game has evolved since the 70’s and is a reminder of the battles fought, which paved the way and kick-started a proliferation of Black players in top flight teams across the UK and abroad.’
Geoff Snape, Secretary of the WBA Former Players Association added: ‘No two people have done more than Cyrille and Brendon since 1978 to break down the barriers of racism that were part of their lives in the 70’s & 80’s. Stewart Phillips was just a young boy starting his way in the world and Ally Robertson was a friend and colleague who witnessed the abuse. So we as an Association are delighted to be involved in this documentary and proud that it was West Bromwich Albion that were at the forefront of attempting to eradicate the effects of racism in football.’