A ground-breaking initiative aimed at getting more former professional players on to club boards, and make football’s boardrooms more diverse, was celebrated at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.
Former footballers including Les Ferdinand, Chris Ramsey, Ian Taylor and Nathan Blake graduated from a Corporate Governance course, entitled On Board, which has been funded by the Professional Footballers’ Association.
The initiative is the brainchild of former Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic striker Jason Roberts MBE, ex-Portsmouth and West Brom defender Darren Moore, and former Birmingham City duo Dave Barnett and Michael Johnson.
“Former footballers can play a key role on the boards of football clubs, and indeed businesses.”
Jason Robert MBE
The players worked together with leading corporate governance specialist Professor Karl George MBE and sports journalist Leon Mann, to develop the course.
On Board, accredited by the Association of Corporate Governance Practitioners, has been delivered by The Governance Forum and has been warmly welcomed by the football authorities.
It will provide the game with a pool of former players, who are qualified and prepared to apply for boardroom positions across football, as well as outside of the industry.
Roberts said: "Former footballers can play a key role on the boards of football clubs, and indeed businesses.
"Traditionally footballers have been encouraged into other areas of the game, and not the boardrooms. We want to change that.
"Players are leading this move for better representation in the boardroom - and the On Board course is a great first step."
George added, “There has never been a greater need to make an impact on boards in the private, public and voluntary sector and attracting people from diverse backgrounds is critical.
"The success of any organisation is hindered by not having competent and committed board members and although they must work together as a cohesive team, ‘group think’ is a major challenge to be avoided at all costs.”
Minister for Sport, Helen Grant, has also shown her support the graduation event at the national stadium and says she has been encouraged by the initiative.
“I fully support the On Board initiative and congratulate those graduating.
"It is an important project to help make football’s boardrooms more diverse and I am particularly encouraged that the initiative has been led by former players who have shown great commitment.
"I am pleased that The FA and PFA are also supporting On Board and know there is a real will across the football family to do all it can to improve diversity in our national game at all levels.”
FA Chairman Greg Dyke continued: “The FA is proud to be associated with the On Board programme which provides former players with another potential route for development after their careers.
"Where BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] players are successful in attaining board places in the game, it will help to widen the diversity of the decision makers in football”.
Gordon Taylor OBE, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said: “We are fully committed to this innovative programme of development for our players.
"Focusing on governance and boards across football, sport and further afield for our players and ex-players provides a real opportunity.
"We see this as one of the many areas of support that we provide for our players which will equip them with career opportunities and experiences after their playing careers.”