You will have been aware of the growing momentum of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, catalysed by controversial killings of Black people by US police and the continuing under-representation of BAME people in senior positions across many sectors including football.
Hopefully our society can capture the energy of this moment to address some of these inequalities. We have all been moved by the television coverage of Black people just asking for a fair chance in life.
Football is very high profile and is rightly identified as having very few BAME people in senior technical, executive and board roles.
Whilst nearly 30 per cent of professional footballers in the PL and EFL are Black, we have pitifully few head coaches, senior executives and board members who are Black.
Even at the FA, we have no Black board member and no Black SMT members. This has rightly been questioned by Black England players and Black ex-England players.
Paul Elliott, a Black ex-professional footballer, is our chair of the FA Inclusion Advisory Board and attends FA Board meetings but has no vote. We have been limited by the way the appointment of directors has been prescribed by our constitution. However, we do not have to accept those constraints and I suggest we review how we quickly evolve to be more representative.
It is often said football moves by evolution not revolution and there is much truth to that. But when football feels the need to move quickly it can, as the Premier League has proven with Project Restart. It has re-engineered its competition to cope with Pandemic and its efforts are impressive. We can move quickly if we choose to. Council diversity has also been questioned.
We have a diverse FA with four women on the FA board and one BAME board member. We have good gender diversity and LGBT presence across our board and SMT but few BAME members and no Black members.
Paul has today published an open letter calling for the creation of a voluntary code of conduct and reporting scheme to be developed and agreed within three months. This proposal would apply across English football for clubs, leagues and the FA. It will recognise that some communities that are homes to leagues and clubs are more diverse than others. I have committed that the FA will engage with and encourage this process.
Why three months? Anti-racism or inclusion initiatives are often big on speeches and hand wringing but short on action. Let’s not let this get “kicked into the long grass.” Let’s get behind Paul and deliver change.
A number of high-profile football owners, chairs, executives, players and media personalities, of many ethnicities and both genders, have endorsed this letter including me, Gareth Southgate and Mark Bullingham from the FA.
To be frank, how could we not support its sentiments? The essence of the FA’s mission is to be fair. Is it fair that our ethnic diversity is lower than the society we represent? Picture all the talented young Black players who are the bedrock of the game from grassroots to the senior men and women’s international teams. Do they see role models for Black advancement in the dugouts, executive offices and boardrooms? They do not - and ask why?
Paul’s letter is attached and I look forward to discussing it with you at our next Council.