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Paul Elliott urges clubs to adopt equality in football leadership code

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
(Image credit: John Stillwell)

Paul Elliott is urging clubs and governing bodies to “step up” and increase the level of ethnic minority representation at the top of their organisations.

The Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the United States last month, have been given prominence in English football.

The slogan appears in place of player names on the back of Premier League club shirts and players took the knee prior to Wednesday night’s top-flight matches at Aston Villa and Manchester City.

But Elliott says all of that will be “an empty gesture” if it does not lead to a change in how ethnic minorities are represented within football, and has called on clubs and administrators to adopt the voluntary Equality In Football Leadership code.

Elliott, who is the chair of the Football Association’s inclusion advisory board, says he will work with other senior black leaders in the game to work on the details of the code, but the idea will be that it can create meaningful targets to improve representation.

He said the FA’s chairman Greg Clarke had already agreed to review the composition of the national governing body’s Council, as well to revisit the FA’s “lack of BAME leadership”.

In a separate letter to the Council, Clarke wrote: “Whilst nearly 30 per cent of professional footballers in the PL and EFL are black, we have pitifully few head coaches, senior executives and board members who are black.

“Even at the FA, we have no black board member and no black SMT (senior management team) members. This has rightly been questioned by black England players and black ex-England players.”

Elliott’s letter continued: “We need the Premier League, EFL, Women’s Super League and the National League to step up and provide ethnic diversity at board and executive level too. We need more role models for young BAME people beginning their careers to draw inspiration from.”

A number of high-profile names from within the sport put their names to Elliott’s letter, including the managers of England’s senior men’s and women’s teams, Gareth Southgate and Phil Neville, Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker and Sky and BBC pundit Alex Scott.

“Don’t be silent. Football must unite against inequality. Join in and make football and society fair for all,” Elliott added.

“Football is coming together to ensure this initiative gains genuine traction rather than be another opportunity for making speeches and hand-wringing.”

Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling has been vocal about the lack of black leadership figures in the sport.

Raheem Sterling has spoken out about the lack of representation for ethnic minorities in leadership roles within football and wider society

Raheem Sterling has spoken out about the lack of representation for ethnic minorities in leadership roles within football and wider society (Dave Thompson/PA)

There are currently no black owners, chairs or chief executives at any of the 91 Premier League or EFL clubs.

The EFL announced it is launching an anti-discrimination online video campaign called ‘Not Today or Anyday’ and that it will support players who wish to take the knee in solidarity with the BLM movement.

The EFL season resumes on Thursday evening with the League Two play-off semi-finals, before the regular Championship season restarts on Saturday.