THE BLOG

Board of Being Blocked

23/04/2015 10:10 BST | Updated 20/06/2015 10:59 BST

Hands up any women who would like to be the CEO of a business ... Hands up anyone Blacks or Asians who would like to be senior member of a governing board ... Ok, now here's something really radical; hands up any Black or Asian women who would like to be the chief executive of a company.

I really don't want to come across like a Politician, I really don't. But I want to share one stat that really shocked and almost scared me. In 2010 women made up only 12.5% of members of corporate of FTSE 100 companies. 12.5%! Are you kidding me?

I guess the advantage I have, is that I'm not a politician; you can trust that I have no agenda. I'm not trying to get you on my side or votes, merely highlight and share a stat that is embarrassing to type let alone accept.

So how does this link with my field; sport and my passion; football?

Well Football has an Elephant in the room and it's a bloody big Elephant. It says it's the game of the people and serves all but does it really? Football is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. But getting well paid isn't the problem for women and men from ethnic minorities. The problem is getting positions of power. The one thing individuals who are competent and have contributed to the game seek more than a pay that reflects their skills and passion, is power and influence. And that is the grievance for many ex players. The excuse that many aren't qualified enough to make the step into management, as Directors or sit on the boards of clubs and make the decisions that will make or break a Football clubs are now no longer there.

And that's where Karl George MBE comes in. George, a leading Governance Consultant, was the founder of the Effective Board Member Programmes in conjunction with 'Sports On Board' to help players and others involved in Football to progress from the pitch to the boardroom.

''We've been working with 20 ex players and others from the game for 6 months, teaching them about how to impact the boardroom, learning about corporate governance and then take an exam on corporate governance. It's to show that there's no excuse now - there are people now who able to sit on boards from diverse backgrounds'' George says.

But George is keen to express that it's not just about ticking boxes and appeasing certain groups. ''It's not just about getting women or Black people on boards. It's about getting the right people with the right skill sets because if you've got talent out there and you're only using a particular section of that population you're not getting the best results for your business. There's been research done that tells us more diversity, delivers better results - it's not a moral case it's a business case.''

One of the graduates and former Aston Villa defender, Ugo Ehiogu has always been thought of as a student of the game and someone who wants to learn and do more, beyond the playing side of the game. He has aspirations to go as high as possible. ''I'd like to one day try management and I'd never turn down the chance to be involved at boardroom level. I still think there are more doors that need to be ajar. But what's important for ex players and BAME's (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) is to get qualified, give yourself a chance to get through the door then if you're not even getting an interview that's a whole different thing."

Chris Houghton comes in from a different angle. Houghton is another graduate and current manager of Brighton, so holds a position of leadership already. But the former Newcastle and Norwich manager wanted to take the course because he sees the importance of understanding the intricacies of how business works at boardroom level - and therefore how be a part of it. ''It's given me the chance to engage with my board better cos as a manager I'm a subservient to my board and I now have a better understanding. And also beyond football, this now empowers me to go into an administrative role and be confident in another industry.''

But Houghton is an example of a black man and ex player who is progressing through the ranks and can see a wiliness to open up the net for a more diverse process. ''There's definitely an enthusiasm for change. But enthusiasm is one thing but actually putting things into practise is another.

I don't have to but I think it's important to list all 20 graduates from this years course and they were; David Johnson, Steve Brown, Soye Briggs, Terry Angus, Rachel Yankey, Riz Rehman, Nathan Talbott, Troy Townsend, Chris Houghton, Ugo Ehiogu, Hannah Dingley, Marcus Gayle, Rauf Mirza, Ken Monkou, Jason Lee, Ben Purkiss, Darryl Powell, Brian McGorry, Johannes Ertl and Jason Brown. It's important to list all 20 of them because these are the people putting in the hard yards to ensure they are equipped to be in positions of power. Many of these graduates didn't have to do this; Chris Hougton to name one. But these are all individuals who have something to contribute to the English game and more than that, better it.

Speaking to many of the graduates about the Rooney Rule, which has been implemented into the NFL, a possible introduction into English Football was welcomed. The Rooney rule ensures every managerial position that comes available; a candidate from an ethnic minority has to be included in the interview process. Many say it's tokenism, but many ex players can only see positives. ''I don't see how it can lessen the selection process, Ehiogu says. ''That owner might have an idea already about whom he wants but you still get a chance to present yourself and you never know he may recommend you to someone else.

If you want evidence that 'On The Board' is having a positive effect then you only have to look at past graduates Sir Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey. Since taking and passing the course Ferdinand has been appointed Director of Football at QPR and Ramsey is the current manager of the club. Nathan Blake holds a non-executive position at Newport County after also graduating from 'On The Board' in its first year. No one would say that they got these jobs because of the course they took. But the point being empowering yourself to have the knowledge won't harm your chances of getting into positions of influence and power. The message seems to be self-responsibility, transparency and no excuses for not opening up the process.