Arsenal in the Community

Raise Your Game Conference 2023

Vinai Venkatesham speaking at the Raise Your Game conference

We were delighted to host Kick It Out’s Raise Your Game conference at Emirates Stadium yesterday. With 300 people in attendance, the 2023 edition of Raise Your Game was the sixth time the event has been held at our home.

The event gives under-represented young people a chance to gain advice and receive support from a wide range of sport industry experts. Attendees had one-to-one mentoring and networking with professionals in the industry, as well as hearing from guest speakers, including our Chief Executive, Vinai Venkatesham and Academy Manager, Per Mertesacker.

Speaking on stage in front of a packed audience, Vinai spoke about the importance of diversity at Arsenal.

"Driving greater diversity at Arsenal has been in our DNA for decades. It’s a key strategic priority for the club. We don't do it because it ticks a box, or we feel like we have to. We operate in one of the most competitive industries in the world, on the pitch and off the pitch. If we want to be the best we can possibly be, we need to be more diverse."

Vinai also talked about his career journey, having initially worked as part of the commercial team at the London 2012 Olympics, before moving into football and joining the team at Arsenal. 

"For me it was about taking opportunities when they came up, and not waiting for it to happen to me. It’s important to be proactive.”

Per Mertesacker speaking at the Raise Your Game conference

After lunch, attendees heard from our Academy manager Per Mertesacker on his path into football.

"My journey was challenging, and I think coping with challenging moments was probably my making. I was never seen as a professional footballer, I never thought I'd be quick enough - there were a lot of doubts. But it's how you overcome them, how you find your way in the world, how you keep yourself motivated. It's how you approach, and never give up in situations – that's the mentality I had to put myself in."

Offering advice to aspiring coaches, he added, "You have to start somewhere, and building relationships is a key part of it".

The conference provides a unique opportunity to share experiences for those already working in football and those aspiring to work in the game. Previous participants have gone on to secure roles at clubs, including Arsenal, leading media outlets and other roles in the industry.

Photos courtesy of The Pull

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