Soccer

Clubs must be punished for failure to meet diversity requirements – Kick It Out

Paul Elliott wants diversity off the field to more closely match diversity on the field (Steven Paston/PA)
Paul Elliott wants diversity off the field to more closely match diversity on the field (Steven Paston/PA) Paul Elliott wants diversity off the field to more closely match diversity on the field (Steven Paston/PA)

Clubs must face sanctions if they fail to comply with diversity reporting requirements and workforce targets, Kick It Out’s chief executive has said.

Data released by the Football Association on Wednesday showed the 53 clubs signed up to the Football Leadership Diversity Code (FLDC) collectively failed to meet any of the eight hiring targets set last season.

The FA board has now approved the creation of a new rule which will make clubs publicly declare their workforce diversity data on age, sex, gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation twice a year from 2024-25.

The detail of the new rule will be worked out in consultation with the Premier League, the EFL, the Women’s Super League and the Women’s Championship but Kick, It Out chief Tony Burnett insists it must have teeth if it is going to prove effective.

“The club results for the Football Leadership Diversity Code are disappointing, but they are not wholly unexpected,” he said.

“In the process of setting up the code, we expressed concerns that if football wanted to drive change, it needed to be transparent about its whole workforce.

“Clubs were only willing to provide limited recruitment data and there were no sanctions for failing to comply.

“Now is the time to be bolder. The FA’s intention to make reporting of diversity data mandatory for all men’s and women’s clubs is a step in the right direction. We would urge the Premier League, EFL and all its 92 clubs to make that data transparent.

“But we also need sanctions for non-compliance and future diversity targets baked into FA, Premier League and EFL rules. Without that commitment, we won’t know the true scale of the challenge nor be able to find solutions to make football more representative of the people who love the game.”

The FLDC was established in October 2020 in a bid to tackle under-representation in the game, but Wednesday’s 2022-23 figures demonstrate clubs’ collective failure to meet any of the targets set.

Senior leadership hiring of black, Asian and mixed heritage candidates is set at 15 per cent, but clubs only achieved 9.1 per cent. In men’s clubs, the target for new coaching hires from a black, Asian or mixed heritage background was 25 per cent but clubs only managed 16 per cent.

For the first time clubs’ existing workforce data was included in the FLDC data published. It demonstrated that levels of diversity off the pitch fall well below the level in the playing population, and that hiring rates are currently not high enough to drive the rapid change needed.

Within the 53 club signatories, 21 per cent of senior leaders and 29 per cent of team operations are female and seven per cent of senior leaders and nine per cent of team operations are black, Asian or mixed heritage. Across the coaching workforce, 13 per cent of coaches and 11 per cent of senior coaches are black, Asian or mixed heritage.

Data from the Black Football Partnership published earlier this year showed 43 per cent of Premier League players and 34 per cent of Championship players were black.

Paul Elliott wants diversity off the field to more closely match diversity on the field
Paul Elliott wants diversity off the field to more closely match diversity on the field Paul Elliott wants diversity off the field to more closely match diversity on the field (Steven Paston/PA)

Former Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, who was key to the FLDC’s creation three years ago, said on Wednesday: “Football wants the diversity off the field to match what we see on the field.

“While we have work to do to improve player diversity in the women’s game, diversity on the pitch in the men’s game is a given.

“Despite this, if we look at Europe’s top five leagues, there are only two black head coaches – one is Vincent Kompany at Burnley and the other is Patrick Vieira at Strasbourg.

“So the challenge is not just in the UK, it’s all across Europe, but I personally have a greater expectation of progress in the UK because of the diversity of our society.

“By evolving the code to mandatory reporting of workforce data, we can take a new approach with new transparency. It is a natural next step. I am pleased that the FA is leading on this topic and embedding it in the rules of the game; that will help to accelerate progress and the growth we need.”

Kick It Out wants football’s new independent regulator to oversee equality standards as part of a code of football governance and to compel clubs to share representation and recruitment data.

Currently, clubs in the Premier League are independently evaluated under the league’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion standard (PLEDIS), while the EFL’s Equality Code of Practice assesses work, learning, development and commitment to EDI and provides a grade of bronze, silver or gold after review.