A SPORTING pioneer with links to the region will be memorialised with a bronze statue at the National Football Centre, it was announced today.

Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer, who played for Darlington, will have a statue built in his honour at the Football Association’s (FA) headquarters at the St George’s Park, in Burton-upon-Trent.

The Darlington-based Arthur Wharton Foundation has worked with the FA on the 16ft statue, which has a prominent position in the grounds of the 330-acre training base.

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It is being designed and made by sculptor Vivien Mallock and will be unveiled later this year.

The statue will be flanked by educational materials supplied by the foundation and Sheffield based Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) project.

A second statue of Wharton is being installed at the home stadium of Rotherham United, another of his former clubs, later this year.

Born in Accra, Ghana, Wharton moved to England, aged 19, in 1882.

He featured as a goalkeeper for the Quakers, going on to represent Preston North End and Sheffield United.

An all-round sportsman and athlete, Wharton became the first official 100-yard world record holder and world champion in 1886, with a time of 10 seconds at the AAA Championships in London.

Wharton was also a professional cricketer, cycling champion and rugby player in his pomp, regarded by many as one of the early pioneers and trailblazers in sport, achieving unparalleled success in the face of adversity.

Shaun Campbell, founder of The Arthur Wharton Foundation, said: “We are hugely honoured and privileged to have received such fantastic support from the FA throughout our campaign helping raise awareness of Arthur’s achievements.

“Having a statue in Arthur’s honour erected at St. George’s Park is testament to that support, and we also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the wonderful and tangible support that we have received.”

FA chairman Greg Dyke added: "We’re delighted not only to give Arthur a permanent home, but to tell his story throughout St. George’s Park.

“Everyone who visits our wonderful facility will learn of his significance historically, and his remarkable achievements.”

David Sheepshanks, chairman of St George’s Park, added: “Arthur Wharton was truly a pioneer of his time and it is remarkable to think about the adversity he had to overcome to achieve what he did.

“St. George’s Park is increasingly playing its part as a brains trust for the game, where so many different people in different aspects of football assemble, so it is only fitting that we are able to honour Arthur’s achievements here.

“We hope that this statue will both educate and inspire a new generation of coaches and players from all backgrounds and specifically black and minority ethnic backgrounds.”