FA Leadership Diversity Code: Over 40 clubs pledge to introduce hiring targets

Teams are pledging to introduce hiring targets, aimed at tackling inequality across senior leadership positions, broader team operations and coaching roles

Raheem Sterling spoke publicly earlier this year about the need for English football to address the lack of black representation in positions of power 2:32
Paul Elliott, chair of the FA's Inclusion Advisory Board, tells Sky Sports News how Raheem Sterling has helped inspire their new Leadership Diversity Code

Raheem Sterling's passionate calls for football to address the lack of black representation in positions of power have helped inspire the launch of the FA's new Football Leadership Diversity Code, with over 40 clubs pledging to introduce hiring targets.

The teams, including 19 of the 20 Premier League sides - Southampton the only one not to join - and a selection from the EFL, WSL and Women's Championship, as well as England, have signed up to the voluntary code, committing to tackle inequality across senior leadership positions, broader team operations and coaching roles.

The Code aims to increase accountability and transparency, as well as moving away from recruitment practices which are focused on personal networks.

Football Leadership Diversity Code targets

Senior leadership and team operations - 15% of new hires will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage

Senior leadership and team operations - 30% of new hires will be female

Coaching: men's professional clubs - 25% of new hires will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage

Coaching: men's professional clubs - 10% of new senior coaching hires will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage

Coaching: women's professional clubs - 50% of new hires will be female

Coaching: women's professional clubs - 15% of new hires will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage

Recruitment - Shortlists for interview will have at least one male and one female Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage candidate, if applicants meeting the job specifications apply.

In the wake of anti-racism protests across the world earlier this year, Sterling appeared on the BBC programme Newsnight lamenting the disparity between the number of high-profile BAME players and the shortage of those who then go on to land significant managerial, coaching or administrative jobs.

Reflecting on the FA's new Code, Paul Elliott, chair of the FA's Inclusion Advisory Board, told Sky Sports News: "It's at the right time for football. I was motivated by Raheem Sterling when he said: 'When I look up, I don't see people that look like me'. That was a proper consideration in my mindset.

"Many people have been talking about the problem, but I think it's even harder to come up with a solution.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo watches on from the touchline
Image: Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is the only black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) manager in the Premier League

"Over the last 25 years in football, there has been much progress with a number of positive action programmes but there hasn't been a model or structure which holds football to account and creates opportunities that has been lacking over the last three generations. We can't reclaim that but what we can do is put a sustainable model in place.

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"I genuinely believe, given the last eight months where there has been so much communication about institutional, structural and systemic racism and social inequity, that - with the Black Lives Matter - has really fuelled debate.

"What's been created here is the 21st century model for football to address to issues of underrepresentation and provide employment opportunities, via targets, that holds football to account."

Elliott sought advice from an expert group of players, including Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson, Tyrone Mings, Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze, as well as the PFA's Bobby Barnes.

He said players of this current generation are "extremely powerful" and praised their "positive contribution" to the Code.

Elliott says he is "over the moon" by the number of clubs who have signed up and hopes more follow suit after the launch.

Current Brighton boss Hope Powell became the first black and first female coach an England national side in 1998
Image: Current Brighton boss Hope Powell became the first black and first female coach of an England national side in 1998

"I wrote a personal letter to every executive of the 92 clubs and we had a substantial amount back.

"Out of that, to achieve in excess of 40 clubs is a measure of how football wants to evolve and move forward.

"I'm sure there will be many other clubs that will want to engage on the back of this, with the feel-good factor and the momentum. I'm sure those numbers will increase."

I would much rather clubs enthusiastically embrace equality rather than reluctantly comply. The reality is, change is driven by people wanting to change and you're going to get better change if people are signing up.
Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari

Edleen John, the FA's international, corporate affairs and co-partner for equality, diversity and inclusion director, told Sky Sports News: "We absolutely want this code to be something that ends up being applied across the professional game.

"There's a journey and we want other clubs to come on board."

The Premier League, whose own Equality Standard (PLES) was launched in 2015, says it supports the FA's Code which "complements the significant work the League and its clubs have already undertaken, demonstrating our collective and continued commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across the game".

In a statement, Southampton said they are "wholly supportive" of the FA's Code, adding: "In 2020, Southampton FC achieved the Premier League's Advanced Equality Standard at the first time of asking.

The Black Lives Matter logo appeared on Premier League players' kits at the end of last season 0:49
The FA's Edleen John says clubs will be held to account by the public over diversity targets through the transparency of their new Leadership Diversity Code

"At this time the club consider the most appropriate course of action to wait and understand how a revised Premier League Equality Standard and the Football Leadership Diversity Code will work together and complement each other before revising our recruitment targets and already established processes.

"We have had productive and encouraging discussions with Paul Elliott on this topic and will continue to work closely with him on this."

preview image 0:37
Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton says the FA's Football Leadership Diversity Code can put in place the structure needed to bring about change in representation within the game

The introduction of a 'Rooney Rule', a policy originating in the NFL which requires clubs interview at least one BAME candidate for vacant manager's jobs, has been widely debated for English football, but has been met with criticism, with that guideline only applying when there is a shortlist of interviewees.

The EFL introduced the quota system this year, but its effectiveness has been called into question by many, including former Burton, Northampton and QPR manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

An EFL spokesperson said they welcome any initiative intended to have a positive impact on football's recruitment practice and will "continue to discuss the most appropriate way to implement the code with both the FA and our member clubs".

15:07
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink reflects on the lack of managerial opportunities for black players and gives his thoughts on the Rooney Rule and its limitations

Although the targets in the FA's Code are not mandatory, clubs will have to give full disclosure on their hires.

On the challenge of holding clubs to account, Elliott said: "This isn't about stick, it's about carrot. Yes, it's voluntary, but if somebody wants to do something for the right reason and there's an economical and ethical imperative, then as far as I'm concerned, that's somebody wanting to make change.

"I've had one-to-one conversations with all the leading executives in the country and what really mobilised me was that they wanted change. They understand why they have to change and the need for change."

John added: "The general public will be the judge and jury. That transparency is what we wanted to create. Whilst there are no sanctions in place, the review of the general public means there is a perspective that can be given and reflected back to clubs."

Ole: We wanted to be part of it

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "We've signed up. Of course, there has been so many disappointing incidents lately both on and off the pitch.

"We want to be part of it and hopefully there'll be a change, because my colour or race doesn't make me a better or worse coach. That's simple, common sense."

United group managing director Richard Arnold added in a statement: "I want to restate our promise as a club to champion diversity and to promote equality for all.

"We had no hesitation in signing up to the Football Leadership Diversity Code. We now look forward to implementing a plan that will be adopted and embraced throughout every department of the club."

'We're rewriting the book'

Kick it Out chair Sanjay Bhandari told Sky Sports News: "This is potentially transformative for the game and changes the way in which people get in, stay in, and get on in the game.

"We're rewriting that book but this is only chapter one and there's plenty more work to do."

0:33
Kick it Out chair Sanjay Bhandari says the FA's new Leadership Diversity Code could be 'transformative', but warned there is 'plenty more work to do'

Bhandari believes the Code's targets and the emphasis on female candidates means it goes further than the Rooney Rule.

"I don't think it's appropriate for it to be mandatory," Bhandari said. "I would much rather clubs enthusiastically embrace equality rather than reluctantly comply.

"The reality is, change is driven by people wanting to change and you're going to get better change if people are signing up."

'A positive step forward'

The FA hopes to encourage recruitment from across society and are adapting a similar model for the National League System and grassroots clubs in March next year.

In a statement, the FA's CEO Mark Bullingham said: "I would like to thank the players, coaches, HR Directors, media and league and club officials from across football who have contributed to the development of the Code.

"Together we have created commitments that will drive real change across the game.

"The Code will hold clubs, leagues and our own organisation to account and ensure opportunities for everyone to work at all levels in football.

"We remain deeply committed to doing everything we can to address inequality in all its forms and to deliver a game free from discrimination. Today is a really positive step forward."

Teams who will adopt the Code as founding signatories: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Brighton and Hove Albion, Brentford, Burnley, Burton Albion, Cambridge United, Chelsea, Coventry City, Coventry United, Crystal Palace, Derby County, Durham Women, England, Everton, Fleetwood Town, Fulham, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Leicester City, Lewes, Lincoln City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Oxford United, Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth, QPR, Sheffield United, Stoke City, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion, Wolves

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