Brighton manager Chris Hughton, former England international Ugo Ehiogu and ex-Chelsea and Southampton defender Ken Monkou were amongst a host of individuals in attendance at the ceremony in Wembley Stadium.
‘On The Board’, was created by leading governance consultant Karl George MBE, founder of the Effective Board Member Programmes in conjunction with Sports On Board to help players and others involved in football to progress from the pitch to the boardroom.
The graduation of players throws a spotlight on the continued commitment of the PFA and The FA, and partners across the game, to tackle the lack of diversity on boards within the sport.
'None of us have come from a business background, so we are stepping into a very different environment'
Former Wimbledon striker Marcus Gayle is one of the 2015 graduates, and speaking at the event, he says he feels better equipped to tackle the business side of the game than he did a year ago.
“It’s been an intense six or seven months learning about corporate governance and learning how to spot and rectify issues, but we’ve all enjoyed it.
“The revision involved in it was really tough, but the knowledge we have been able to obtain has been really helpful and we can use that in a forward direction,” he told TheFA.com.
“None of us players involved have come from a business background, so we are stepping into a very different environment at boardroom level. In that sense, it has been a very learned period and I feel a lot more confident after graduating from this course than I did before I started.”
Gayle, who played over 200 games for the Dons, was manager of Staines Town in the Conference South before leaving the position in January. Although he is enjoying time away from the game at present, the ex-Jamaican international is eyeing a quick return.
“I’ve been to a few games and doing a bit of TV commentary, so at the moment I’m just enjoying my time. This is the first prolonged break I’ve had since I was 15, football has been my life all the way through,” he added.
“But hopefully, with this knowledge and the exposure this has got now, it will open up into a position within football. It’s not just about black men getting into boardrooms, it’s for women and people of all minorities. It’s a diversity issue, and we just want to make that change to be able to make different decisions and outcomes.
“I don’t feel that the net has been sprung wide enough to get the best people on board, and maybe the game has missed out on very talented people by not looking in different directions.”
On The Board began last year, with former Wales forward Nathan Blake gaining a non-executive position at Newport County following his graduation and fellow graduate Les Ferdinand being promoted to director of football at Queens Park Rangers.
Another member of the class of 2014, Chris Ramsey was appointed as manager at the Loftus Road side in February after starting the season as assistant to England Under-17s head coach John Peacock.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic – but I’ve missed working with England U17s with Smithy [goalkeeping coach Simon Smith], John Peacock and all the staff there,” said Ramsey.
“That’s been the only drawback that I haven’t got the free time to go and do that, but I’m really enjoying the experience of working at QPR and I really hope I do well enough to keep the job.”
The 52-year-old has huge experience within the game, playing for Brighton, Swindon and Southend before embarking on a coaching career that has seen him manage England U20s and enjoy stints working in Malta and USA before spending ten years at Tottenham Hotspur as head of player development.
Despite his vast knowledge gained through spending over 35 years in football, Ramsey says the On The Board course provided him with tools necessary to take on the new challenges faced in his current role.
“I think that sometimes we are in the situation where we do think more about the technical side of being a coach and the physiological side of sports science – this was something totally out of my comfort zone and something that I didn’t know about.
“I felt that there have been barriers in my way and sometimes you have to learn how to think how those people who put those barriers in place think.
“The course helped me as obviously there are things at QPR that I’m involved in now that I haven’t been involved in earlier. Managing people and understanding how to put a backroom team together. Then there’s looking at how you are interacting with people and how the group interacts as a whole in order to move things forward.”
'This was something totally out of my comfort zone and something I didn’t know about'
He added: “The course will help people in governance and the general understanding of how the people upstairs work.
“But the more you can educate yourself the more rounded you become as an individual and that helps regardless of your ethnicity.”
The full list of graduates from the 2015 On The Board course is: Terry Angus, Soye Briggs, Jason Brown, Steve Brown, Hannah Dingley, Ugo Ehiogu, Johannes Ertl, Marcus Gayle, Chris Hughton, David Johnson, Jason Lee, Brian McGorry, Rauf Mirza, Ken Monkou, Darryl Powell, Ben Purkiss, Riz Rehman, Nathan Talbott, Troy Townsend and Rachel Yankey.
On The Board is accredited by the Association of Corporate Governance Practitioners and Edinburgh Napier University.