No More Red: Arsenal and Islington campaign against knife crime

Arsenal promoted the No More Red anti-knife crime campaign by wearing all white in their game against Nottingham Forest.

Left: Arsenal promoted the No More Red anti-knife crime campaign by wearing all white in their game against Nottingham Forest. Right: Councillors Bashir Ibrahim and Roulin Khondoker at the refurbished Harvist Estate football pitch. - Credit: PA

Arsenal’s No More Red campaign against knife crime is just “the start of a conversation”, according to a local councillor.

Arsenal played Nottingham Forest on Sunday (January 9) in an all-white kit to publicise a new campaign with Adidas. No More Red calls for no more bloodshed from knife crimes. 2021 saw 30 teenage murders in London, the highest number on record. Most of these deaths were caused by knife attacks.

The white shirts illuminated the problem and will be gifted to organisations tackling the root causes of youth violence. The campaign will provide mentorship and invest in safe spaces for young people, such as the refurbished Harvist Estate football pitch. Arsenal and Adidas have pledged funding to deliver at least one new pitch each year during their partnership.

Ian Wright MBE said: “Every young person deserves the opportunity to express themselves. The opportunity to exist within a safe environment. The opportunity to live free from fear of violence. We can never accept loss of life through youth violence as ‘normal’ in our city and it’s so important that we all work together to create a better environment for young people.

“By giving young people more places to play sport, more support, and access to individuals who can inspire them, together we can help make a difference to young people in London.”

Highbury West councillor Bashir Ibrahim, who is the Islington’s first young people’s champion, said: “Islington as a whole and Islington Council have always said 'no more red'.

“We need to have that serious conversation because how many more parents will lose children? How many more brothers and sisters will be lost? How many more young people, who are the future of this country, will we lose?”

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He said Arsenals white shirts were "the start of a conversation”, adding: “Arsenal have led and I would hope that other Premier League clubs follow.”

Arsenal promoted the No More Red anti-knife crime campaign by wearing all white in their game against Nottingham Forest

Arsenal promoted the No More Red anti-knife crime campaign by wearing all white in their game against Nottingham Forest. Pictured is Gabriel Martinelli - Credit: PA

He said football has the power to create a “national dialogue” that can unite communities: “Sport is a universal language, it truly is.”

Cllr Ibrahim believes the lack of youth centres and safe spaces accelerates vulnerable young people towards violence.

“The problem many communities face is we're now into our twelfth year of Tory austerity, which means hundreds upon hundreds of youth centres have been closed down,” he said.

“I am strongly of the view that we must offer sufficient provision for young people to meet, to play, to socialise safely, or they could be drawn into violent crime and more antisocial behaviour.”

Islington Council’s safe haven scheme provides safe spaces for young people, by training local businesses to help someone in danger. Locations sign up to be safe havens to create a network of refuges for anyone feeling unsafe.

Eight knife bins currently installed around the borough, where people can dispose of weapons.

Cllr Ibrahim said the bin next to the Emirates Stadium, in Hornsey Road, has been a particular success.

“From October 2020 to August 2021, over 1,000 knives were found in the bin, which I think is bittersweet,” he said,

“You know, understanding that there's this number of knives that were potentially in circulation that could have been used as weapons, but there's 1000 knives that would all be on the streets of Islington.”

He emphasised the need for educating young people on knife crime

“Some of the statistics are quite stark, in that if you carry a knife, you're very likely to be injured or killed with the knife that you are carrying," he said.

“In order to be safe, you do not need to carry a knife – you do not.”

He said parents need a better understanding of the subject and the difficulties their teenagers are facing. He named school exclusion as a significant factor, leading to violence, as well poverty, unemployment, family breakdown and poor mental health.

“All of these things and more widely systemic or structural racial inequality can really alter the likelihood of someone taking the wrong path and getting involved in violence,” he said.

“When people ask what causes knife crime, as if there is one singular pathway to that, [there needs to be an] understanding that there's a complex set of factors at play in people's lives, in people's homes, and in people's communities.”

Cllr Ibrahim said: “Unfortunately, we often deal with the consequences or the aftermath of some of these issues, without really addressing – and it's quite an uncomfortable conversation at times – some of those root causes.”

Councillors Bashir Ibrahim and Roulin Khondoker at the refurbished Harvist Estate football pitch.

Councillors Bashir Ibrahim and Roulin Khondoker at the refurbished Harvist Estate football pitch. - Credit: Islington Labour

Idris Elba, founder of Don’t Stab Your Future and mentor as part of No More Red, said: “From the time young people leave school, until the time they’re at home with family, there is often a void, a dangerous spike of nothing to do, where nothing can easily turn to something dangerous. 

“If there continues to be no options for this after-school period, we will always see gangs form. Let’s create options for these young people.” 

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