Black footballers come together to demand fair leadership opportunities

More than 100 black professional footballers have come together to demand change within the game and to break what they describe as the “grass ceiling” of representation in coaching and leadership roles.

The Black Footballers Partnership comprises luminaries from the men’s and women’s game and crosses generations of current and former pros. Viv Anderson, Chris Hughton and Les Ferdinand are among the number, as are Hope Powell, Nikita Parris and Eniola Aluko. All are calling for a greater recognition of black talent in the game.

Figures produced by the BFP show that while 43% of Premier League and 34% of EFL players in the men’s game are black, only 4.4% of managers are black. It says that while 14% of those holding a Uefa pro licence in England are black, only 1.6% of executive, leadership and ownership positions in football are held by black people.

“It is incredibly positive that so many current and former Black footballers have joined our partnership for change,” said Delroy Corinaldi, the executive director of the BFP. “The 100 players have represented the 92 professional clubs, worked in football administration and all have lived experience of football’s ‘grass ceiling’.

“On-pitch training and support for Black footballers needs to be matched off the pitch. Opportunity denied is experience wasted; experience that can enrich football at all levels and grow the game.

“Voluntary codes, supportive statements, gestures and nice words have not broken down the grass ceiling. It is time for action and the BFP will work with those willing to help unlock the talent of Black footballers.”

The BFP believes mandatory targets are necessary for increasing black coaches and leaders within the game. The FA’s current Leadership Diversity Code, which is about to enter its third year, is voluntary.

Ferdinand, who is the only black director of football in the English game, at QPR, told the BBC that the code was not working. “It’s a voluntary code, so it’s made no difference whatsoever because there’s no repercussions for anyone if you don’t follow [it],” he said. “So, what does it mean? It’s just nice words. I think there’s been a lot of talk, a lot of politically correct things said, but in terms of the numbers they haven’t changed – so that’s what you’ve got to look at.”