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English clubs failing to meet ethnic diversity targets, missing six of eight metrics

Premier League, EFL and FA hit seven of eight diversity targets for ethnically diverse and female appointments, but the 32 clubs signed up to Football Leadership Diversity Code across Premier League and EFL only manage to achieve two of eight

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The Football Association's second annual report on the Football Leadership Diversity Code has shown English clubs are failing to meet some of its pledged targets.

All Premier League teams and 32 English Football League clubs have signed up to the code, which was introduced in 2020 to increase equality of opportunity and encourage recruitment of diverse talent across senior leadership teams, team operations and coaching set-ups.

While the FA, Premier League and EFL produced strong results and exceeded in seven of the eight targets for the 2021-22 campaign, the clubs signed up to the code saw a drop-off, in particular in the number of senior management hires for both female and Black, Asian and mixed heritage candidates.

Just 10.3 per cent of the candidates hired for senior leadership roles at clubs came from Black, Asian or mixed heritage background, which dropped below the 15 per target.

The three governing bodies of English football hit that and also ensured 38.5 per cent of their new recruits were female.

Clubs again dropped below that 30 per cent target with an average of 17.2 per cent.

A disappointing trend occurred in terms of coaches hired by men's clubs with 15.6 per cent from Black, Asian or mixed heritage background, below the 25 per cent aim, but a more positive result occurred in the number of senior coaches recruited.

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The target of 10 per cent was met with 21.2 per cent of senior coaches hired either Black, Asian or mixed heritage.

Kick It Out's Sanjay Bhandari said the rise in BAME coaches was 'encouraging' but said there was more to do in other areas
Image: Kick It Out's Sanjay Bhandari said the rise in diverse coaches was 'encouraging' but said there was more to do in other areas

Kick It Out's Sanjay Bhandari said: "The results on recruitment of Black, Asian and mixed heritage coaches in both the men's and women's game, and the achievement of targets by the football authorities, are encouraging.

"There is also plenty of room for improvement in other areas such as senior leadership and the recruitment of female coaches.

"Two years into the process, now is a good time for pause and reflection across the industry, to share learnings and best practice. Collectively, that will enable us to increase the pace of change."

Women clubs also failed to hit their 50 per cent target that all new coaches hired would be female (33.3 per cent).

But WSL and Women's Championship teams did see 15.3 per cent of their recruits come from Black, Asian or mixed heritage backgrounds, therefore reaching the 15 per cent pledge.

"This year shows some signs of progress, with a shift in recruitment processes that will start to change the game and the three governing bodies exceeding seven out of eight targets."
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham

The pledges for team operation roles also failed to hit the intended target.

Only 13.5 per cent of the new hires for team operation roles were Black, Asian or mixed heritage, falling below the 15 per cent aim, and 30 per cent of new recruits being female also failed to be hit (28.6 per cent).

Mark Bullingham, the FA's chief executive, added: "I would like to thank everybody involved for supporting the Football Leadership Diversity Code, as part of a collective desire to create meaningful change.

"This year shows some signs of progress, with a shift in recruitment processes that will start to change the game and the three governing bodies exceeding seven out of eight targets.

"However, while we saw clubs exceeding diversity targets for senior coaches in the men's game and coaches in the women's game, there is still a huge amount of work to be done across the game.

"We understand that substantive change will take time, but a number of clubs have already made progress, and we expect to see more clubs follow that lead in years to come."

While the Premier League, FA and EFL hit their targets in seven of the eight categories, the collective football average met just two pledges - 10 per cent of new senior coaching hires by men's clubs being Black, Asian or mixed heritage and 15 per of new coaches recruited by women's teams being black, Asian or mixed heritage.

"The Premier League fully supports the Football Leadership Diversity Code as we collectively work to achieve greater diversity across all areas of the game," chief executive Richard Masters said.

"Over the past two years, the code has represented an important commitment from across football to tackle inequality and create long-term change.

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Former England international Lianne Sanderson says diverse ethnic under-representation remains an issue in elite girls' and women's football in England.

"We are pleased to be making progress but there is still much more to be done to ensure there are opportunities at all levels of the workforce - this remains a priority for us."

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch added: "The EFL has made a number of strategic developments to its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) operation, to help make the EFL and its clubs more reflective and representative of the communities in which we serve.

"During that period, the EFL has seen a rise in both female and Black, Asian or mixed heritage employees recruited.

"While this is a step in the right direction, the league is committed to further diversifying its staff base, ensuring everyone has the same opportunity to succeed across the EFL. We will also continue to work collaboratively with clubs and partners to improve our game, together."

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Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has called on the FA to set its targets higher with regards to diversity in coaching.

Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, the only black manager in the Premier League, said: "I would like [the FA] to be a bit more ambitious, because I think the numbers they wanted to achieve are not high enough."

'Risk of resentment and distrust towards clubs'

Bhandari, speaking on Sky Sports News, said clubs risked creating a feeling of resentment and distrust towards them if they did not manage to improve their efforts towards meeting the code's targets further down the line.

"The report says we're at a crossroads," he said. "Why is it at a crossroads? Because this report only refers to new recruits. It doesn't look at entire workforces, just new recruits. Look back at the big systemic problems in football, they've been there for 50 years.

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Kick it out chair Sanjay Bhandari says football is at a crossroads with regards to the FA's Football Leadership Diversity Code and feels we need a regulator to make mandatory requirements around equality and inclusion.

"If you're in the boardroom and you're not white and male, almost forget it. Over 50 years, what those of us from under-represented communities have experienced is a cycle of promises, hope and disappointment. The challenge now is to make sure the positive intent behind this doesn't become another disappointment.

"The clubs in particular need to focus their efforts in making it a reality, or that hope from two years ago will turn swiftly into resentment and distrust."

'Code hasn't held football to account'

Yunus Lanat, a former chair of the Football Association Race Equality Advisory Board and the first Muslim member of the FA Council, said the lack of targets being met had shown that English football was not being pushed to progress with regards to diversity.

"Football, again, I'm sorry to say, hasn't been held to account," he told Sky Sports. "It was publicised in trail-blazing glory that it would be held to account, but unfortunately evidence suggests it hasn't.

"What should have happened is, in year one, steps should have been taken, and it should have been identified that it wasn't working.

"It looks like nothing has happened, and now panic has set in."

'Code must have enforcement'

One of the leading diversity and sport experts in the US, Professor N. Jeremi Duru, looked at the FA's Diversity Code for Sky Sports News and believes it needs enforcement to work.

He said: "You've got to have enforcement. If there isn't enforcement there's going to be a backsliding.

"There seems to be a two-year trial period with the code as a voluntary thing - there's been mixed success but not the traction that we'd all like to see.

"I think it presents a very strong argument in favour of those who from the very beginning insisted that enforcement was necessary for this to really take hold, so perhaps the FA should consider creating an enforcement mechanism so we have a code that really has teeth and then at the end of the day we will then see the gains the code was designed to create."

Another issue for the American with the code is that it does not apply to the appointments of head coaches and managers because it states that these roles are often chosen at speed.

Duru said: "I think that's a substantial weakness and I'd like to challenge the premise that the changes of a head coach have to happen quickly - I don't think they have to happen quickly.

"We expect them to happen quickly but they don't have to - if we explore the premise and recognise that perhaps there are ways not to rush the process then we're going to find ourselves with more people of colour having genuine opportunities.

"Sociologists tell us that when you're forced into a quick decision you tend to retreat to what's comfortable and to what's familiar. Generally in the upper echelons of football what's comfortable and familiar often isn't the individual of colour so if we demand that decision-makers take their time, then that is going to result in greater equal opportunity and greater diversity."

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