Marina Hercka, Trustee, and James O’Dowd, Founder of the Patrick Morgan Foundation

Let’s All Play Politics...  

In 2020, Lewis Hamilton—simultaneously the most successful and only Black driver in Formula One—announced the formation of the Hamilton Commission alongside the Royal Academy of Engineering, which would undertake ten months of research into the lack of diversity in motorsport, despite the variety of jobs in the industry.

Last month, the Commission published its findings in a report titled Accelerating Change: Improving Representation of Black People in UK Motorsport, featuring concerning statistics, including that “only 1% of people employed in Formula 1 are from Black backgrounds.”

Along with the report came Mission 44, a Foundation to act on the recommendations made by the Commission, and to which Lewis has personally pledged nearly £20m.

Naturally, Hamilton posted about these developments across social media.

Scroll through the comments on any of those posts and you’ll arrive at rhetoric that has dominated his work both on track and outside of F1 throughout his career:

  • - Black people just choose different careers
  • - jobs should be awarded on merit, not the color of people’s skin
  • - why are we promoting diversity for diversity’s sake?
  • - stop whining and race

Also in 2020, Marcus Rashford — forward for Manchester United and England — ramped up his efforts to end child poverty in the UK when it became apparent that an overwhelming percentage of the student population in Manchester would not receive free school meals during the first lockdown.

Since then, his campaigns have gone national, forcing the government into action, he has:

  • Partnered with FareShare, which raised over £20m
  • Worked with Magic Breakfast and Macmillan, and
  • Fought for better treatment of underprivileged young people

Then, in July 2021, he took a penalty for England in the Euros final. He missed. England lost.

The response from some of the public, armed with prejudices and anonymised social media accounts was disheartening and expected; but the vitriol did not only come from faceless crowds online.

In a private message to some of her colleagues, Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said:

“They lost - would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics?”

Yes, it would be ungenerous, but why?

Why is it important to nurture prominent people from under-represented backgrounds, and why does their activism matter?

Motorsport Valley

Lewis Hamilton has both witnessed and experienced a great deal of unfair treatment in his ascent to - and time in - F1. He’s spoken at length about the near-expulsion from school for an incident he was never involved in, the pushback he has gotten from higher-ups when trying to talk about racial issues, and the ‘wrath of emotions’ that scenes of police brutality in the US brought up.

The Hamilton Commission is an effort to turn those feelings into actionable research. It examines the causes of the lack of representation for Black people in motorsport, introduces case studies for a first-person view of the issue, and makes recommendations to the industry on how to make use of this intelligence.

For instance, some discourse argues that lack of interest in certain careers is to blame for under-representation of minorities.

The theory holds some truth but examining young people’s interaction with motorsport elucidates the mystery of why engagement is so low for certain groups of people: most English racing teams’ headquarters (Mercedes, Red Bull Racing, Renault, et al) are stashed away from the urban areas with the highest densities of ethnic minorities (Accelerating Change, p. 37).

Adding to that is the highly glamorised image of the sport - this tight, elitist collection of ten teams and twenty drivers, with offices in futuristic glass buildings in Motorsport Valley, the colloquially termed conglomeration of F1 HQs around Oxfordshire and the Midlands.

Lack of access begets low interest: later in the same chapter, the report states that “the ‘elite’ image of Formula 1 [risks] putting off candidates from non-Russell Group universities from applying for roles, the suggestion being that students would consider it a waste of time to apply as they would not have a high chance of securing employment” (Accelerating Change, p. 42).

This issue is not exclusive to motorsport - young people from minority racial and socioeconomic backgrounds shy away from some careers, such as finance, law, and STEM-based paths due to poor access. As the Commission itself says, the research shines a bright light on this specific industry, but it must act as an impetus to examine the world of work more broadly.

“Lewis Hamilton has blazed a trail through motorsport,” the report concludes (AC, 160).

“He set up the Hamilton Commission to help others have the opportunities to shine that all young people deserve.”

His “playing politics” has led to the creation of a new framework for how we support and educate students from underrepresented backgrounds. At the same time, he’s breaking a new record every time he gets behind the wheel: most wins in F1 (99), most race starts (265), and only driver to win a race in every season completed, among many other accolades.

Though these are extraordinary statistics, he remains representative of Black youth with high potential, held back by circumstance but resilient throughout; he says it himself:

“The one thing that connects the boy who was told he had no potential in 1996, with me today, is opportunity. [...] I am the same boy who got told he’d never achieve anything” (Accelerating Change, 6).

If I Have Nothing Else

“He's a very good young player,” Cristiano Ronaldo said of Marcus Rashford in 2016.

“I see some of myself in him for sure. [...] He has an amazing future.” At this time, Rashford was enjoying a success-laden debut.

A year before, The Guardian highlighted him in a Next Generation piece on the 20 promising talents in Premier League clubs.

Parallel to professional success, much like Lewis Hamilton, Rashford is inspired by his own working-class background; on his journey to dedicated charity and activism Rashford wrote to the Prime Minister: “[...] my mum worked full-time,” he wrote, “earning minimum wage to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table. But it was not enough. The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.”

In fact, this letter was part of Rashford’s campaign for extending the free school meal provision, which prompted a U-turn that rightly lingered in the news for months: extension of free school meals and “a £170m Covid winter grant scheme to support vulnerable families in England and an extension of the holiday activities.”

Of course, career highs don’t come without some lows. It’s true for all athletes, including Rashford - in July this year, he missed a penalty for England in the highest-stake match for them since 1966. Immediately afterwards, the country held its breath for what would follow; racist tweets, the defacement of his mural in Manchester, and the now infamous “playing politics” comment.

Rashford’s response was model leadership: a post in which he apologises for missing the penalty and expresses gratitude for the messages of support he’s received, from his own community in Manchester, and beyond:

“The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up. I’m Marcus Rashford, [a] 23-year-old, Black man from Withington and Wytenshaw, South Manchester. If I have nothing else, I have that.”

Below that message are photos of letters from children, writing about Rashford as an inspiration, a hero; children who are watching him play football and politics, succeed and fail, ace his craft and help families in need, children who are seeing themselves in him.


It is significantly more difficult for Lewis Hamilton and Marcus Rashford to exist in their respective sports as who they are than it is for their white counterparts from more affluent backgrounds. It’s surely not their responsibility, then, to solve the world’s social issues in half a lifetime each.

Both Hamilton and Rashford have felt compelled to act. In the introduction to the Commission’s report, Lewis says he couldn’t wait to to act anymore after noticing a profound lack of representation in his F1 team (Accelerating Change, p.7);

Rashford, in turn, says: “When you get to the position I’m in now, I feel like if [children] are in need, and they don’t have anyone fighting for them, I should be the one that does it, really.”

This should never be the case. In these children’s corner, fighting for them, must be both individuals and institutions, in the public and private sectors alike, who have the power to create opportunity; and by deriving insight and inspiration from Hamilton and Rashford, we can begin to do just that.

The positive news is that, little by little, we are beginning to notice change: firstly, as mentioned, Rashford’s campaigning forced the government into a U-turn on free school meals, giving more young students the opportunity to learn, unhindered by a lack of access to food. In parallel, the Hamilton Commission’s report is the backbone for the formation of Mission 44, a foundation to commit to improved diversity in the industry through early education.

Lewis Hamilton has driven the F1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali, to speak about increasing diversity in the sport. That’s no small feat, considering the awful few commitments made to ensuring racial justice and equality from F1 or FIA officials before Lewis Hamilton started to make noise.

On a more local scale, this learning will have a long-lasting impact: as Trustees of the Patrick Morgan Foundation, we will be going into partner schools in the autumn with new STEM-related learning and resources for students aiming for a science-led career, whether it be in motorsport or otherwise.

More to the point, this discourse and political activism has opened the door to conversations about how grassroots organisations can be supported in delivering the right kind of careers education in schools, in the interest of better representation. More funding and corporate support has enabled us, and many foundations like us, to be better prepared in the way we both train and inspire students in their career pursuits of choice, and is there any better way to tackle a systematic issue than at its root?

Let’s All Play Politics

As established, minority young people who dream of entering careers where they are under-represented face complex barriers, which often enforce one another: lack of access, poor education, no support, and socioeconomic background, to name a few.

The problem did not develop overnight, so it won’t just take one Lewis Hamilton or one Marcus Rashford publicly succeeding to fix it, but what’s a marathon if not a series of small steps? Using not only their accomplishments, but their message and sense of civic duty, we can inspire people from the same backgrounds to reach higher than they ever have.

In the meantime, the public and private sectors have their own job to do: create ample opportunity, so that when the next generation does reach forward, they’re met with doors that open easily.

In a recent piece, Labour MP Jess Phillips writes about Rashford, post-Euro 2020 discourse, and the value of non-politicians campaigning, underlining the egregiousness of political gatekeeping.

“So let’s play politics,” she says, “because it’s personal to each and every one of us.”

We ought not to dismiss the Hamiltons and Rashfords of the world, but encourage them, learn from them; join them.

With stakes this high, let’s all play politics.

Marina Hercka, Trustee, and James O’Dowd, Founder of the Patrick Morgan Foundation

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

The Environmental Impacts of Remote Work: Stats and Benefits: Working from home is a necessity rather than a luxury…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page