There are a significant number of black professional footballers currently playing across English football. However, better representation is still needed off the pitch. We know from PFA Delegates and captains that addressing under-representation of coaches, managers and board members remains a high priority for our members.
The English Football League (EFL) has traditionally been the natural first step for aspiring managers who go on to work at the top levels of the game. Of the 11 current British Premier League managers, all of them started their managerial career in the Football League.
Therefore, the success of the Recruitment Code plays a pivotal role in addressing this fundamental and structural problem within the game. We need successful BAME managers within the EFL to subsequently see more BAME candidates for managerial positions across the highest levels of the game.
The PFA lobbied for the introduction of the NFL’s Rooney Rule to English football, working hard for over a decade to ensure its subsequent adoption by the EFL. In 2016/17, an adaptation of the rule was run as a pilot scheme with a voluntary code involving 10 EFL clubs. The PFA later welcomed its mandatory adoption as the Recruitment Code for all 72 EFL clubs in 2019.
However, we believe the code needs strengthening and can only work in the longer-term if underpinned by accountability and transparency. Therefore, the PFA is seeking the following:
- BAME candidates for the position of a first-team manager only becomes mandatory when clubs initiate a short-listing process and interview more than one candidate. This means that clubs targeting a specific candidate or prioritising a quick appointment can potentially bypass the Recruitment Code. Of the current 71 managers in situ at EFL clubs, 70% were appointed during the season when a full recruitment process is unlikely. We are calling for the Recruitment Code to be mandatory for every managerial appointment, as of next season.
- Transparency is key, so we ask that the EFL share the statistics around the number of job interviews involving BAME candidates for first-team manager positions and other roles during the 2019/2020 season.
- Is there a steering group in place at the EFL to determine policy and procedure around the Recruitment Code?
- If so, what is the BAME representation on that group?
In addition to representation with coaching and managerial positions, it is vital to have BAME representation at board level, across stakeholders and clubs. As sponsors of On The Board, the PFA have helped ensure more BAME candidates are qualified for board positions. Now is the time to see that greater diversity in board rooms. All stakeholders will need to work together to make this happen, but we have outlined what we believe to be the necessary first steps:
- BAME representation on the EFL Recruitment Code steering group, by January 2021.
If a steering group does not already exist, it should be established with BAME representation by the same date.
- Substantive BAME representation at board level at The FA, EFL, LMA and Premier League, for the 2020/21 season.
The football industry must show leadership to ensure these important changes are implemented. Only by working together to agree these terms, can the industry hold each other accountable for these commitments.