PFA response to BAME Board Representation

Paul Elliott

Following the international focus on racism and the structures that support it, our membership has called for change within the football industry and the Professional Footballers’ Association will not rest until it is actioned across the game. 

Undoubtedly, greater representation within the governance structures of the game is required. Boards should draw upon the widest range of skills and experience available, with a particular emphasis on including former professional footballers within those decision-making structures. 

Currently, less than 2% of senior governance and administration positions at governing bodies and professional clubs are held by BAME staff. 

For many years, the PFA has worked to tackle issues of under-representation of our BAME membership across the game, including at board level and coaching/management. In 2013, we began funding On The Board - a programme aimed at preparing ex-footballers – particularly BAME candidates - for board positions.

So far, On The Board has produced 101 graduates and earlier this month, 12 more footballers joined our six previous cohorts in being ‘board ready’. High profile current and former players, such as Wes Morgan, Aoife Mannion, Darren Moore, Les Ferdinand, Danielle Carter and Chris Hughton are amongst those qualified, and whose experience as professional footballers would prove invaluable.

It is not enough for football to offer gestures of anti-racism support on the pitch but fail to tackle diversity issues across other areas of the game. The PFA will continue our work to improve diversity in football. However, real change requires a commitment from the wider industry. Platitudes are not enough; we need to see better representation at decision-making levels.

At the time of the latest graduation, the #NoExcuses campaign was launched, endorsed by Nathan Blake, Michael Johnson, Jason Roberts and other On The Board graduates. These players have taken it upon themselves to become qualified in board governance to reduce the industry’s possible excuses for not appointing BAME candidates. Therefore, transparency and accountability are necessary, so we can be clear about why so few BAME candidates are being appointed.

While tackling the racism black players face on the field of play is essential, the game must also address racism and issues of under-representation across all areas of the game.  We have a strong and vocal membership calling for tangible and sustainable change. 

Now is the time to act – if things don’t change while racism is the subject of international attention, will they ever? It’s time to give qualified people to roles they deserve. In June, we called for better 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.