'Disappointment' only 27 EFL clubs have signed FA's diversity code

‘Surprise and disappointment’ that only 27 of 72 EFL clubs – and only four sides in League Two – have signed up to the FA’s Leadership Diversity code aimed at increasing inclusion in English football

  • Historic Leadership Diversity Code aims to increase inclusion in English football
  • The code was launched by the Football Association in October this year
  • 19 of 20 Premier League clubs signed immediately but take up is slower in EFL 
  •  Supporters of the project have urged EFL clubs to get on board and sign up

English Football League clubs have been urged to sign up to the Football Association’s Leadership Diversity Code, after it emerged only 27 of the 72 sides have pledged their support and only four in League Two.

The code, which was launched in October, is aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion throughout English football.

It immediately attracted the support of 40 clubs across the Premier League, English Football League, Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship.

The clubs who have signed up will be tasked with meeting targets, including that 25 per cent of new coaching arrivals at men’s professional teams will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage

Nineteen of the 20 Premier League clubs pledged their commitment, but Southampton chose not to sign up initially, because they had just achieved the Premier League’s Advanced Equality Standard and they continue to consider how the FA’s code will complement this work.

However, the take up rate in the EFL has been much slower with only 27 sides – 38% – committing themselves to the code, which includes 14 in the Championship, nine in League One and only four in League Two.

‘I am surprised and disappointed that only around a third of clubs in the EFL have signed up to this agreement when every club in the Premier League, except Southampton, have signed,’ said Ben Robinson, who is chairman of Burton Albion, one the first clubs to join.

The drive – led by Paul Elliott – aims at increasing diversity and inclusion across English football

‘I hope that sooner rather than later more clubs will see the project for what it really is about, which is a concerted attempt for people to be given better opportunities to further their career.’

Robinson’s comments come at a time when there has been debate in the game about whether players should continue to take a knee before matches or undertake a different gesture to highlight support for equality and demonstrate against racism.

Some, including QPR director of football Les Ferdinand, have argued that ‘taking the knee will not bring about change in the game – actions will’ and added the gesture ‘has reached a point of “good PR” but little more than that’.

Southampton have not signed up to Football Association’s historic Leadership Diversity Code

The diversity code, which has been driven by the chair of the FA’s inclusion advisory board, Paul Elliott, presents a tangible way for clubs to take action on equality and QPR are one of the signatories.

The clubs who have signed are tasked with meeting the following targets:

• That 15 percent of new hires into senior leadership and team operations roles will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage (or a target set by the club based on local demographics) and that 30 percent of new hires will be female.

• That 25 percent of new coaching arrivals at men’s professional clubs will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage, while 10 percent of new senior coaching hires will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage.

• At women’s professional clubs, at least 50 percent of new hires will be female and 15 percent of new hires will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage.

Both Burton Albion (right) and Charlton Athletic have signed the FA’s diversity code

Clubs will also be asked to implement specific recruitment practices including ensuring shortlists for interviews will have at least one male and one female Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage candidate, if applicants meeting the job specifications apply.

It is thought that some clubs may have been put off signing up to the code because they fear they may not be in a position to meet all the criteria. In addition, many are struggling with the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sportsmail understands that the FA is working with clubs on how the code can be applied in their own circumstances and supporters of the project say it is better to get involved than sit on the sidelines.

Burton Albion chairman Ben Robinson would like more clubs to sign the diversity code

‘I would encourage clubs to sign up to it,’ said Ian Mather, chairman of Cambridge United, which was also one of the first clubs to join the scheme. ‘You can pick around any policy but I would encourage them to get on and make a start.

‘It gives you a framework, rather than just say improve access to jobs for BAME people’ added Mather, who is an employment lawyer with 30 years’ experience. 

‘I think a more diverse workforce is a more successful work force. I think where clubs have got stuck is on the detail and they worry about signing up to stuff they may not be able to deliver, but the FA are willing to work with clubs.’

Cambridge United were one of the early supporters of the project toincrease inclusion

Ian Mather, Cambridge United chairman, has urged more clubs to sign the historic code

The FA continues to work hard to encourage clubs to come on board and Sportsmail understands meetings have been held with up to 10 sides in recent weeks to discuss the project.

Clubs then have to consider the code at board level before reaching a decision.

The FA says it is hopeful more clubs will join and expects to issue an update in January.

When the code was launched in October, Elliott said: ‘The number and stature of clubs that have already agreed to join us on this journey proves that together, with clear goals, transparency and a desire for action, we can shape a better future together. We hope more clubs join us as we move forward.’  




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