Simone Pound is Head of the Equalities and Diversity department at the PFA and works hard with her team to ensure players are represented in the fight against racism and inequality within the game and wider society.
For almost twenty years, Simone has been a pioneer in football, making sure inclusivity and representation remain a top priority for stakeholders in the game. Here, Simone Pound shares her unique insights as a black woman on the relationship between football and race.
Simone, is the PFA an inclusive place to work?
We’re the players union, so the PFA has to reflect our membership. I’m proud that we have real representation at board, senior management and staff level. We had Garth Crooks as the first black chairman more than 30 years ago, and people like Brendan Batson and Bobby Barnes in senior executive positions when I joined. The kind of diversity we have is quite rare and it can be easy to take that for granted. That is until you look at the lack of representation in other organisations, and you realise we are very unique in that area.
How do you think football has changed in terms of race?
On the field, it’s very diverse and representative in terms of race, ethnicity and nationality, but sadly we do not see enough of that anywhere else. We need to see more people of colour managing, coaching, working in clubs, being on club boards, or as part of the backroom staff. Even when it comes to stewarding and policing at matches, it’s not at all representative. However, things are improving, and the PFA support many initiatives to try and address this imbalance. One example is the BAME Coaching Placement Programme, which aims to improve visibility of black coaches at the top level.
You helped devise the #Enough campaign, what kind of impact has it had?
The 24-hour boycott sent a strong message to everybody, showing that players have a voice, and they are united against discrimination. I was proud that we were able to mobilise our membership and lead the way when talking about racism and discrimination. The campaign had also opened up a path to meaningful conversations with social media networks. The work we’re doing with them is on-going as we drill down into their policies, thresholds and terms and conditions. It is quite challenging as they are very different from football. #Enough was special because it was a player-led campaign that made it clear they've had enough. It's hard to ignore that.
What was black history like for you growing up?
Black history wasn’t taught in schools when I was growing up, but I had a close relationship with my Grandmother, so I learned a lot from her. My mum came over from Jamaica when she was nine. Growing up as the child of a first-generation immigrant in the 70’s and 80’s, I was very conscious of being black in what was still quite a racist time. For me, black history was about my grandparents’ journey coming to this country. I think it’s great that this younger generation has far more knowledge about where they’ve come from, and a lot more pride and understanding of their predecessors.
Do you think people outside the black community should pay more attention to black history month?
I think it's important that everyone learns more about black history. People can forget quickly, and most textbooks and school curriculums don't cover it enough. Black people didn't just appear in the UK on the Windrush; there were black Victorians and Edwardians! There have been black people in Britain throughout history, so communities should know and celebrate all that we have contributed to the fabric of British society.