Arsenal will play in a one-off all-white strip against Nottingham Forest as part of the launch of the No More Red outreach and anti-knife crime initiative with adidas.
Arsenal are removing the red from their iconic shirt and will wear a custom all-white kit for the first time in Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie with Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
The kits will not be commercially available and will be awarded only to individuals who are making a positive difference in the community.
The collaboration with the club’s kit manufacturer will build on the work of Arsenal in the Community to keep youngsters safe by providing fresh investment for safe spaces to play football, and mentorship opportunities that will see local young leaders supported by creative talent including Ian Wright and Idris Elba.
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It comes after last week’s confirmation of a record 30 teenage knife crime fatalities across London in 2021.
“The idea that Arsenal are going to come out in an all-white kit and say ‘No More Red’ will hopefully make people think ‘Hang on, what’s going on here?’ – then look further and try and find out more,” actor Idris Elba told Sky Sports News.
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“I hope it makes an impact that ripples into other football clubs and inspires other collaboration ideas, and investment in practical things to help young people, whether that’s football pitches, or youth centres like the one I went to in Forest Gate where I played sport and where I actually fell in love with film.
“We need to give young people, especially teenagers, another option and an alternative to knife crime and gangs. It’s about what we can offer them as an option.”
The 10 shirts worn by Arsenal’s outfield players in the cup tie will be gifted to organisations working in the community to address some of the root causes of knife crime and youth violence. The Don’t Stab Your Future initiative – utilising fashion to support people working to keep kids away from crime – is one such organisation.
Award-winning actor Elba has used his status to raise awareness about knife crime and says the No More Red initiative is a cause that instantly struck a chord with him.
“The reasons why they [adidas and Arsenal] are doing this really resonated with me.
“I’ve got a big youth following and people always say to me: ‘Idris, you came from the same place I came from, how did you do it?’ And, it’s the same with the footballers.
“To see these two giants say we want to do something significant, specific to the culture of football, that says we are watching, we care, we want to do something – that really resonated with me. It really did.”
‘Our biggest collaboration is with the fans’
“It takes a village because no man is an island,” Elba continued. “That’s where partnerships that raise awareness and collaborations come in.
“Our biggest collaboration is with the fans. Every Saturday and Sunday hundreds of thousands of fans go, and millions of people get together to watch football.
“You really start your football journey as a teenager, and that’s the power of collaboration right there. That’s where adidas, Arsenal, Ian Wright – who I was a fan of growing up – myself, Don’t Stab Your Future, everyone, we’re all here to amplify this message.
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“Football is the place to watch your team and see the fans, and celebrate your unionship – a unionship I don’t think you can get anywhere else.
“Football makes you feel like you’re in this together and that’s how powerful sport is, and football in particular. You’re literally using your voice to cheer and uplift the players, and football is probably a little under-utilised in the sense of how it connects with the youth and how it can become a beacon of light for the youth.”
‘Temperature of the violence different in 2021’
Around 10,000 crimes reported in the 12 months across the capital leading up to June last year involved a knife.
Elba believes the coronavirus pandemic and effects of lockdown have heightened stress and tension among young people, exacerbating the issue of knife crime.
“The temperature of the violence in 2021 was completely different – and one of the key things we didn’t go through in the eighties was a two, three-year pandemic which has not only put a strain on the world and citizens of the world, but our country in a way which we’ve never witnessed before.
“These are children we are talking about and these kids (the 30 that were killed) maybe would have been alive had we not gone through one of the most difficult times in the world that we have ever seen.
“I’m not saying there wouldn’t be knife crime if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I’m saying, ultimately, it has made it worse for everyone. The stress levels are really, really high and thus the level of the violence and the nature of the gang culture has taken on a different form.
“That’s what I think has changed massively from when I was growing up, and specifically that the last two years in particular have been dangerous. Knife culture has seeped onto the streets and the consciousness of these kids and seeped into communities, it’s gotten worse and it’s tragic.
“We are at a juncture now at the beginning of the year where hopefully – and I use the word purposely – we can say we want to change it, and shine a light on it, that we’ve had enough and as a village, we want to do something about it.
“Adidas, myself, Arsenal, we’re never going to get to the heart of why knife crime happens, but what we can do is make a lot of noise about it, so people are a lot more aware – everyone from the people that make and sell the knives to the people that hold them.
“It’s about creating that awareness and telling people, and showing people that we are paying attention.”
Ian Wright: Together we can make a difference
Club legend Wright also features in a powerful series of videos alongside Arsenal players Emile Smith Rowe, Bakayo Saka, Reiss Nelson where they make an impassioned plea for ‘No More Red’ – an end to knife violence.
Wright 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.”
Head of Arsenal in the Community, Freddie Hudson, added: “Keeping safe is just one part, No More Red also provides educational opportunities that help individuals make better, informed choices about their future. It also sends a wider message that by pursuing your talent and focusing on aspirations and positive influences, there are alternatives.”
For further information about the initiative please visit here