Anti-racism charity backs campaign to recognise England’s first Romani footballer03 June 2014


The campaign has been kick started by the Sheffield-based project’s donation towards funding the cost of a headstone after Steven Kay, the author of ‘The Evergreen in red and white’, a novel about Howell’s final year in Sheffield, discovered the player had been buried in an unmarked grave.

“Rab has largely been forgotten and I’d love to see his pioneering role recognised.” explained the novelist.

“He was a great little player and should be remembered. Ricardo Andrade Quaresma, Christo Stoickov, Gheorghe Hagi, Andrea Pirlo, Dani Guiza, Freddy Eastwood and Eric Cantona walk in Rab’s footsteps. Raising his profile may help underline that Romani people have a long history in Britain and have been contributing to our culture since the Middle Ages.” he added.

Rabbi Howell was born in Dore, South Yorkshire, England, in 1867, and signed his first professional contract with Sheffield United in their first season, 1889/90.

During his career he also played for Liverpool and debuted for England in March 1895, scoring in a 9-0 defeat over Ireland. After 13 years at the top of English football, Howell retired after breaking his leg during a match whilst playing for Preston North End.

On the campaign FURD founder and Fare Chair Howard Holmes said:

“It’s a very worthwhile campaign. We had experience of doing something similar with Arthur Wharton as the first Black professional footballer. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Doncaster in 1930 and we raised funds to put a headstone on his grave in May 1997.”

“When we heard about Steven Kay’s campaign to do the same for Rabbi Howell, we still had some money left over from the Arthur Wharton headstone fund so are very pleased to pledge £250 to kick start the campaign.

“Anti-Romani prejudice remains strong throughout Europe – around English grounds it still seems to be a prejudice that carries little taboo.” he added.

Donations to the appeal can be made by post to Football Unites, Racism Divides at The U-Mix Centre, 17 Asline Road, Sheffield S2 4UJ.

For more information, contact Steven Kay or Howard Holmes at FURD.