Campaign to honour Jack Leslie who was denied England appearance reaches its goal


The ongoing campaign to honour Jack Leslie has now reached its target.

The news which was announced by the Jack Leslie Campaign group means that the statute for the man who was denied an England appearance because of his colour will now be built. The target had initially been to reach the goal of £100,000, but a surge in donations has meant that despite launching less than six weeks ago, the amount donated has now passed £136,000. The campaign group have stated that they are still open for donations, with the additional proceeds going toward what the group say will "ensure the best memorial possible" in addition to helping the development of an educational and maintenance legacy.

The campaign group leading the charge comprises several "like-minded football fans" many of whom are local to Plymouth.

Jack Leslie himself was a professional footballer who played over a century ago in the 1920s. Leslie made his name as a prolific marksman with local side Barking Town, scoring more than 250 goals and helping them win the Essex Senior Cup in 1920 and London League Premier Division title in 1921. He would then move to Plymouth Argyle, where his impressive strike rate would soon thrust him into the national spotlight. The campaign group's description of Leslie as "an outstanding player" is more than apt - after his move to Plymouth Argyle in 1921, he would score 137 goals in a long and illustrious career which ended in 1934.



The artwork which was created by Plymouth Argyle fan and Private Eye cartoonist, Rob Bullen is on offer as a limited edition, signed print.



But the campaign to honour Leslie is not only driven by his achievements as a player, but also the fact that he was denied the opportunity to appear for England. In memorializing Leslie by statute, the group hoped for wider acknowledgement of a man whose career and success was undermined by powers beyond his control. The campaign delves into his story, describing the circumstances which led to his chances of representing England being lost. They explain:

Jack Leslie should have been England's first black player but when the selectors discovered his heritage, his name would never appear on the team sheet. Leslie was named in the England national team to face Ireland in 1925 and was told by his manager that he'd been called up. But after this selection, his name mysteriously disappeared from the team sheet, seemingly because FA officials had come to look at him in person and discovered that he was black. So, not only was Jack an incredible player for his club, but his is also a story of great national and historical significance. It's also one that sadly still resonates as racist incidents in football and in wider society continue to this day."

The campaign has drawn backing from several ex-players including Viv Anderson and Carlton Cole. Anderson, who made his England debut in 1978 leant his thoughts to the campaign, remarking that it was "important to highlight these people that had come before". The exact location is still to be decided with further collaboration needed with Plymouth Argyle as well as additional consultation with Plymouth City Council, but the aim is for a landmark bronze, full body statue of Leslie in his prime on a stone plinth.

To learn more about the campaign, click here.

Mayowa Ayodele



A call to action...

For 24 years OBV have fought to ensure black and minority ethnic participation and representation in civic society. Efforts in continuing to do so though, relies on your help. That way we can continue this fight for greater race equality. What would give us a tremendous boost is if today, you made that small donation yourselves, but even more importantly if you encouraged others to do likewise.