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Les Ferdinand criticises FA initiatives as report shows 'glass ceiling' for Black coaches

QPR's Les Ferdinand brands FA initiatives to improve coach diversity as "all talking"; Ferdinand joins Black Footballers Partnership which has commissioned report concluding 4.4 per cent of manager roles taken by ex-players are occupied by Black people, with 1.6 per cent in leadership

les and chris
Image: Les Ferdinand (R) and Chris Ramsey (L) are part of the Black Footballers Partnership

QPR director of football Les Ferdinand says there is still a glass ceiling for Black coaches and has questioned the Football Association's appetite for meaningful change in the game.

Ferdinand spoke to The Times after the publication of the Szymanski Report, commissioned by the Black Footballers Partnership (BFP) which the former England striker is a part of.

The report found that although 43 per cent of Premier League players are Black, they represent just 14 per cent of all known UEFA Pro Licence holders who have graduated under the FA.

Szymanski's report also shows "4.4 per cent of managerial positions usually taken by former players are occupied by Black employees". Just 1.6 per cent of executive, leadership and ownership positions are held by Black people.

"We need a voice for ourselves because we're just not being heard," Ferdinand said after the publication of the report.

Stefan Szymanski report

"If I'm not as successful at QPR as I want to be, for whatever circumstances, I'll never get another opportunity to do this job. Yet I see directors of football that have left one club, go to another, left one club, go to another and continue their careers.

"The FA keeps putting initiatives in but it's all talking. I've been having this conversation about a glass ceiling for Black coaches with the FA for 30 years and nothing's changed."

Former QPR manager Chris Ramsey
Image: Ramsey believes there is a systemic issue in the game

Ferdinand is one of the founding members of the BFP, alongside QPR technical director Chris Ramsey, England U21 coach Michael Johnson and former top-flight women's player Eartha Pond.

QPR's Ramsey has campaigned around this issue for a number of years and feels Black coaches being overlooked has "gone on too long and points to a systemic problem in the game".

Ferdinand added: "We are losing generations and generations of talented young Black footballers who come out of the game who have got something to offer. It's almost like we're allowed to love the game as players but that's about it. We can be entertainers but we're not allowed to be leaders.

"I see the likes of (Frank) Lampard, (Steven) Gerrard and (Wayne) Rooney coming to the end of their careers, all great players in their time, Tony Adams and Steve Bruce, and everyone talks about what great managers they'll make because of the stellar playing careers they've had.

"I see Ian Wright, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Ince coming to the end of their careers and they're never mentioned in the media in the same light. They've had stellar careers. It's partly the owners but the owners listen to what the media say. They should be above that, but are they?"

Image: Ferdinand has questioned why ex-players like Paul Ince are struggling to get back into coaching

FA 'deeply committed' to diversity

Responding to the comments, the FA says it is "deeply committed" to ensuring diversity in all levels of the game and pointed to the Football Leadership Diversity Code, as well as welcoming further conversation with Ferdinand.

An FA spokesperson told Sky Sports News: "The FA is deeply committed to ensuring the diversity of those playing, coaching and leading within English football is truly reflective of our modern society. We've been clear on our ambitions and in 2020, we took the proactive step of launching the Football Leadership Diversity Code, which now has over 50 signatories, including all 20 Premier League clubs, and is focused on increasing diversity in senior leadership, team operations and coaching positions.

"While legal reasons prevent The FA from making this code mandatory, this is a first-of-its-kind initiative for English football and is a firm commitment to embedding greater diversity across the football landscape. Over the 2020-21 season against the backdrop of a pandemic, signatory clubs collectively exceeded diversity targets in hiring senior leadership and men's club senior coaches, while making progress against targets in other areas. This code has now been expanded to the National League System, Women's pyramid and grassroots football.

"Within The FA specifically, our teams are increasingly diverse, with 14 per cent of our senior management team, 12 per cent of all employees, 20 per cent of our England Men's coaching staff, and 4 per cent of our England Women's coaching staff coming from Black, Asian, Mixed or Other Ethnic backgrounds. We have been transparent with our data reporting and have set targets to increase representation out to 2024. We are also working to further diversify the FA Council, with the 24 new members this season including National Game Football Communities and Inclusion representatives.

"To support the work of the code, we launched a central careers platform in early 2021 to create greater transparency of roles available across English football, and to help organisations and clubs reach a larger and more diverse audience of candidates. Since its launch, over 900 vacancies have been posted, with over 4,600 applications. Of these, 39 per cent of performance role applicants were from historically underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.

"This code adds to the multiple initiatives we are running to increase the number of coaches who have been historically underrepresented in the game, including our bursary and coach-development programmes, our fully-funded places initiative, the Elite Coach Placement Programme and support for the recent creation of the Coach Index.

"Recognising that no organisation has all the answers, we would welcome the sharing of best practice and further dialogue with Les to better understand how QPR is building ethnic diversity within its own managerial and coaching staff, to see if there are specific lessons that we can learn and share across the broader football landscape."

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