Liverpool's first black footballer calls for 'Empire' to be dropped from MBEs


Howard Gayle refused an MBE from the Queen for his work tackling racism in football, through the campaign Kick It Out, and has said the word "empire" needs to be removed from the honour.

"It was against my values," he told Victoria Derbyshire about turning down a Member of the Order of the British Empire earlier this year.

"If they want to be inclusive and accepting of black people around the UK and the Commonwealth, then they need to change the title of it - as it's an exclusive club being an MBE or OBE, or one of those gongs."

Liverpool team group 1981 European Cup final
Gayle, bottom left, ahead of the 1981 European Cup final against Real Madrid (Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport)

Gayle became Liverpool's first black player when his professional career started in 1977, and later played for the likes of Fulham, Birmingham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Stoke, Blackburn and Halifax.

The 58-year-old joined a list including John Lennon, David Bowie and Benjamin Zephaniah in turning down an honour, with the latter refusing an OBE in 2003 and saying: "I get angry when I hear that word 'empire'; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality."

The award, along with the CBE and OBE, was first conceived by King George V during the First World War but is now given to those making distinguished contribution in their specific areas of expertise or in their community.

"A lot of people around the world contacted me to say they accepted my decision and that the title of MBE did rankle," Gayle added.