Paul Elliott on Football Leadership Diversity Code year three report

Wednesday 22 Nov 2023

When we created the Football Leadership Diversity Code three years ago, it was a very difficult time for everyone. We were just coming out of Covid and workforces had been cut around the country. I remember speaking to Mark Bullingham about a structured plan to help diversify the game. 

While this year’s report is evidence as to why we need to continually evolve the plan, I can say we are in a much stronger position than we were three years ago. 

Firstly, the FA has change rapidly in that time. If you compare the composition of the Board now to five years’ ago, you can see that the FA has set a benchmark for diversity across English football. It’s what every club and national stakeholder board should strive for.

Secondly, while the FA cannot dictate to clubs and leagues what they should or shouldn’t do, the Code has helped unite the game in common purpose and, in its own diverse recruitment, The FA is leading by example. 

However, as with any strategy, there’s always a chance of a plateau. You can’t always sustain growth or change year in, year out. 

I want diverse recruitment thoroughly embedded in English football and, while we know there will be natural fluctuations and that outcomes won’t always be as good as we might like, the FLDC has created a platform. The next step is to evolve the approach and focus on our long-term goals. 

Football wants the diversity off the field to match what we see on the field. While we have work to do to improve player diversity in the women’s game, diversity on the pitch in the men’s game is a given.  

Despite this, if we look at Europe’s top five leagues, there are only two Black head coaches – one is Vincent Kompany at Burnley and the other is Patrick Vieira at Strasbourg. So the challenge is not just in the UK, it’s all across Europe, but I personally have a greater expectation of progress in the UK because of the diversity of our society.

By evolving the code to mandatory reporting of workforce data, we can take a new approach with new transparency. It is a natural next step. I am pleased that the FA is leading on this topic and embedding it in the Rules of the game; that will help to accelerate progress and the growth we need.  

Whether it’s a coach, senior leader, administrator or manager, the one fundamental thing that everyone wants is equality of opportunity. We’ve worked hard on improving the talent pipeline and this move to mandatory reporting is the next step in helping to ensure that talent meets opportunity.  

Useful Resources

By Paul Elliott Chair, FA Inclusion Advisory Board