John Barnes is widely regarded as one of the top club players in the world. He won two league titles and two cup finals with Liverpool, was a FA Cup runner-up with Watford, Liverpool and Newcastle United, and earned 79 international cups for England.
After retiring from playing football, Jamaican-born John became a club manager for a short time, before becoming an author, presenter and commentator for the likes of ESPN and SuperSports.
For his talent alone, he is an automatic choice for any hall of fame, but his impact on the game went far beyond goals and trophies. John was the first high-profile black player to grace Anfield in the 1980s, a time when racial abuse echoed around stadia. Along with fellow black footballers Lawrie Cunningham, Cyril Regis and Viv Anderson, John was a catalyst for change.
John is now a highly sought-after public speaker for awards ceremonies and business conferences, talking about football, presenting and racism.
Contact Great British Speakers today to book footballing legend John Barnes for your next event.
In 1987, John Barnes moved to Liverpool for a reported £900,000. Alongside fellow attackers John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley, the trio had Anfield purring from day one. Over the next few seasons, the team endeavoured to play some of the most entertaining football England had seen. His left foot proved the downfall of many a team as Liverpool took football in this country to new heights, completing a record-equalling 29-game unbeaten run, and ultimately, clinching a 17th league title.
Not even an infamous banana-throwing incident in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park could knock him off key. In true Barnes style, he backheeled the fruit off the pitch.
John’s positive influence on the club’s younger players meant he was the perfect man to succeed Ian Rush as captain in the mid-1990s, with the likes of Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp benefiting from his training.
Unfortunately, by now, injuries were beginning to plague him, and the club were not experiencing many glory days. He led the side out for the 1996 FA Cup final (which they lost), but it was to be his last high-profile game for them. Throughout his years at the club, he made over 400 appearances and won two First Division titles, two FA Cups and the League Cup.
After stepping down from playing, John took on a manager position. He began his managerial career at Celtic, where he stayed for eight months, before being appointed head coach of the Jamaican national team for one year, and finally Tranmere Rovers for four months.
As well as being an excellent footballer, John was also an accomplished rapper, performing on the ‘Anfield Rap’, Liverpool’s ’96 cup song ‘Pass & Move (It’s the Liverpool Grove)’ and New Order’s ‘World in Motion’. The latter reached number one in the charts and spent 18 weeks in the UK top 75.
Stemmed from the abuse he received whilst playing, John is now a vocal advocate for racial equality in the sport. He experienced racism from the club’s staff, opposition players as well as his own teammates, as well as the infamous banana-throwing incident, where a crowd member through the fruit at him during a match with Everton.
Since retiring from football management, John can regularly be found presenting and commentating for the likes of Sky News, Channel 5 and ITV, as well as appearing on Question Time where he discussed racism and discrimination off the backs of the George Floyd killing.
He has appeared in a number of popular television shows including Strictly Come Dancing (2007), Waterloo Road (2010), Lily Savage’s Blankety Blank (2001), This Is Your Life (2001), Russell Howard’s Good News (2011), Who Do You Think You Are? (2012) and Celebrity Big Brother (2018).
His first book, John Barnes: The Autobiography was released in 1999, but it was his most recent book that hit the charts. In 2021, he published The Uncomfortable Truth about Racism, a book which explored his personal experiences of racism, as well as the history of racism in the UK. The book ended up in Amazon’s top 50 Discrimination and Racism Studies books.
John is now a very popular after-dinner and dinner speaker, awards host and conference moderator. An advocate against racial discrimination, his talks are honest, informative and entertaining. When booked as a speaker, you will receive both a legend of football and a true equality warrior.
– Achieving Goals
– Race and Racism
– Diversity, Equality and Inclusion
– Teamwork and Leadership
– Overcoming Obstacles and Dealing with Adversity
Clients: Hyundai, Mars Bar, Standard Chartered, Lucozade, Vauxhall, Sports Direct, Western Union
I invited John along to speak about his experiences of racism both on and off the pitch. We were pleasantly surprised at how authentic he was about his experiences and how he spoke more widely around discrimination and unconscious bias.
Karim, Schroders Personal Wealth
John is a great guy, extremely funny, personable and made us all think with the content of his keynote speech. He was happy to pose for photos with us all and chatted happily with those who wanted to speak to him. We even heard the famous ‘rap’ at the end which the majority of the room filmed on their phones and is now probably somewhere on social media.
Yvonne, Group Support Manager, Clearsprings Group
John was great, and in my opinion just what we were looking for and more. He was really thought-provoking and quite provocative at times, he utilised simple analogies to help people truly understand the meaning of unconscious bias.
Claire, Alcon Eye Care
I didn’t get to say bye to John but he was absolutely amazing and I cannot begin to thank him enough! He got up on the tannoy and did two fantastic raps, he really motivated so many people.
I asked John if he minded diving straight in, he was more than happy with this and provided a great opening, describing his early years, his famous background and how he came to live in England. He also echoed much of the philosophy we coach here, which was fantastic as we’d not had a chance to brief him on that, it was all very natural and spontaneous.
We worked with John for the launch of our £2.90 Caribbean Campaign for Western Union. John was a real asset, charming, enthusiastic, friendly and a real crowd-pleaser. We had huge crowds, many who had seen John’s tweets a few days before. The campaign won two awards, John’s efforts and personality were a big reason for this. If anyone is looking for a celebrity/personality to be a part of their campaign, I would 100% recommend John, you won’t be disappointed, he is down to earth and will go above and beyond.
Oliver Burgoyne, House of Experience