At its best English football is a game for all, enjoyed by men and women, boys and girls of every ability and background. Unfortunately the running of the game has not always reflected the vibrant diversity of its playing.
At The FA our current staff comprises 33% female and 13% BAME but, to be frank, our BAME community is under-represented in the senior ranks of The FA. We want our inclusivity to improve further and ensure we become even more diverse. There is no good reason The FA cannot be a leader in inclusion and we have commissioned an expert report on how we achieve this, which will go to our Board in January. We want to do this not only to ensure we truly represent everyone playing our game – but because a diverse organisation will have broader insight and make better decisions.
That is why this week we made a series of announcements – a new way of doing things to really move the dial on our inclusivity and culture. We’re implementing a version of the Rooney Rule for all England positions, which means that The FA will interview at least one BAME candidate for key coaching positions, from the senior men’s, women’s and development teams and across our 28 squads.
We’ll also create specific spots for talented BAME coaches to work with England teams in order to gain a deeper understanding of how national teams are run and, in turn, visibly demonstrate opportunities for BAME players in the wider football workforce. It’s been great to be working with the Professional Footballers’ Association [PFA] on this initiative and I thank them for their support on it. The programme will run alongside current FA programmes such as Player to Coach, BAME Specialist Coaching roles and the BAME mentee programme and will start in 2018. As Lord Herman Ouseley, the Chair of Kick It Out said, this may well be a watershed moment.
These will be the most obvious of our initiatives, but many more will also be taking place. Last year was a difficult one for The FA. We failed our England women’s team in our grievance procedures. As part of the changes, we are also overhauling our work in this area. We have a new grievance procedure and a new whistleblowing process, which we developed alongside UK Sport with the help of the PFA and Kick It Out. We will be bringing in two new roles that will offer welfare support and advice to all players on camp and around St George’s Park. It is important to grasp the opportunity presented by our failure to deal fairly with our elite BAME women footballers. Our failings were exposed and we either retreat to a bunker mentality, and blame everybody but ourselves, or we recognise this is a unique opportunity to catalyse change by recognising our shortcomings and deciding to implement fundamental change. We have made the positive choice and now we have to deliver the promised change.
The second big change, on top of the cultural ones, is a significant increase in the investment in football. Many people don’t realise that The FA is a not-for-profit organisation. All the money we make from England teams, sponsorship, Wembley Stadium connected by EE and TV rights goes back into football. Thanks to the popularity of The Emirates FA Cup overseas – with nearly 100million people watching last year’s Final in around 170 territories – we will have more money to invest in football next year. We’re increasing The FA’s spend on football from £123million to £180million per year.
That will mean more grassroots pitches. For example, we’re looking at an innovative new mini-pitch programme for primary schools. Our investment in this area will increase from £20million to £29million per year. We’ll also have more money for women’s and girl’s football with £50million going into it in the next six years. We want to improve the experience for the next generation of players too. To do this, we are going to make sure that each of 64,000 mini-soccer and youth teams have an FA qualified coach. And we’ll also provide support for 150 community club hubs to reach out to even more people and subsidise a UEFA B standard coach for each of them.
It’s been great to be able to create such a positive programme of change for 2018 and an energising way to start the year. I’m even more pleased to say that people seem to agree with us too – the minister for sport, Tracey Crouch, herself a qualified football coach, tweeted how pleased she was in seeing: “much progress in this announcement from @FA on many issues including inclusion, whistleblowing, transparency, facilities & growth of grassroots.”
I would like to thank all of you who pushed us to become The FA that the country could be proud of and reflects the vibrant multicultural society that our country is.
As ever, the announcement is the easy bit. We will now focus on implementing these changes to ensure that as an organisation The FA is truly For All.
Greg Clarke is chairman of The FA. For more information on the For All campaign, visit thefa.com/forall