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Talking point: What impact will the Football League's diversity requirements have on the coaching workforce?

From the 2016-17 season English Football League clubs will be required to interview at least one black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) candidate for vacant academy roles in order to diversify the dug out. But with only a handful of BAME coaches occupying top jobs, is the initiative enough?

Published in Sports Management 11 Jul 2016 issue 124

Simone Pound,

Head of Equality and Diversity,

PFA

Simone Pound
Simone Pound

“The English Football League announcement feels like a significant step in the right direction towards inclusivity in coaching and management roles. The PFA has been working towards this since 2003 when we held the very first steering group to address the under-representation of BAME coaches and managers in the English game. This was a pivotal moment and attendees included John Barnes, Viv Anderson and Luther Blissett – top-flight players who were not afforded the opportunities within management that their experience and talent warranted. Representatives from the League Managers Association, Football League and Premier League were also in attendance.

At the time PFA CEO Gordon Taylor said that if we had a mountain to climb – in terms of BAME representation at coaching and manager level – we had reached base camp. We are now making progress up that mountain.

The recruitment process needed to become more transparent and giving BAME coaches the opportunity for interviews is important. This is something we have worked towards for over a decade. Even if someone is not suitable for that particular job it may open up an opportunity elsewhere.

At the PFA we have worked hard to create a mass of qualified BAME coaches. When we started out in 2003, Pro Licence candidates were cherry picked and candidates were selected by individuals, limiting the talent pool. After persistent lobbying by us, however, the FA created a specific criteria and selection panel which made the process much more transparent.

We’ve been over to the US a number of times to work with the founders and lawyers who implemented the ‘Rooney Rule’ and we looked at how this policy might transfer to the UK, making sure that this was done in a way that was fair to all of our membership. We don’t want to specify set figures in terms of representation, but it’s important to everyone that we see the number of BAME coaches and managers increase.”

"We’ve been to the US to work with the founders and lawyers of the Rooney rule"

Richard Bevan,

Chief Executive,

League Managers Association

Richard Bevan
Richard Bevan

“The League Managers Association fully supports the principle that any individual, regardless of background, should be given equal opportunity to build a long and meaningful career in the game.

The LMA has identified key areas along the career pathway where effective intervention will have an impact – such as recruitment, education and role models. The game must encourage an open and transparent recruitment process in which the best candidate is appointed to a role with no discrimination against any ethnic or other minority group. Football must provide world class career development opportunities open to all and, inevitably, as more BAME managers achieve success, there will be a greater number of role models for young BAME coaches to learn from and aspire to emulate.

The LMA Institute of Leadership and High Performance runs programmes which assist in the development of managers and coaches, including the LMA Diploma in Football Management accredited by the University of Liverpool.

We are encouraged by the range of interventions implemented by the English Football League and The FA and applaud the clubs for adopting and supporting these reforms. We hope that the changes at academy level will prove a catalyst to a far greater number of BAME coaches managing our football clubs in the future.”

"Football must provide career development opportunities open to all"

Lord Herman Ouseley,

Chair,

Kick It Out

Lord Herman Ouseley
Lord Herman Ouseley

“This is a ground-breaking decision by the English Football League which will ultimately be beneficial in introducing best recruitment practices in all football clubs – namely, producing appointments to coaching and managerial positions on merit.

It will also open up opportunities for BAME qualified coaches to be considered fairly by removing barriers and creating a level playing field.

We welcome these reforms and would like to congratulate the English Football League chair Greg Clarke and the organisation’s staff behind the scenes, who have worked tirelessly on this.

It is not a panacea to deliver proportionate number of BAME coaches and managers overnight, as some people argue for. It does, however, provide a first, but important, step towards giving confidence to qualified BAME coaches that they will have the opportunity to apply for vacancies, will be considered fairly on merit to be interviewed and will not be affected by bias and prejudice when final appointment decisions are made.”

"This isn’t a panacea – but it is an important first step"

Arun Kang,

Chief Executive,

Sporting Equals

Arun Kang
Arun Kang

“We welcome this initiative by the Football League and hope it may expand further across all levels to have sustained long term impact.

More than 25 per cent of professional footballers come from a black or minority ethnic background but this doesn’t translate in the same numbers when it comes to professional level coaches.

This challenge on diversifying coaches is not exclusive to football with only 3 per cent of coaches from BAME backgrounds in sport. Therefore more commitment, initiatives and thought needs to go into attracting a wider pool of talent and the Football League initiative will build a foundation for the league to work from.

Sports organisations need to explore the culture within the sector and to work outside of their comfort zone. One way to do this is to change mindsets within sport and promote the benefits of inclusion and integrate the principles of the business case to diversity. With only 3 per cent of board members of NGBs funded by Sport England and UK Sport coming from a BAME background, this may show a lack of empathy on how to engage or understand the challenges faced by BAME groups into coaching and professional roles in sport.”

"Only 3 per cent of coaches in sport come from a BAME background"

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