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Chris Powell applauds the FA for its ‘very, very powerful’ diversity code

England Training Session – St George’s Park
(Image credit: Tim Goode)

Chris Powell has welcomed the Football Association’s new diversity code as a “very, very powerful” development in the quest to ensure more candidates from ethnic minorities can land top jobs.

Powell, who is currently head of coaching at Tottenham’s academy, believes the code stands apart from previous diversity initiatives in its ability to hold clubs and other organisations accountable.

The Football Leadership Diversity Code, which is voluntary, will ask clubs to hit specific targets in coaching positions as well as senior management roles.

Powell told the PA news agency: “I think it is a very, very powerful code and I expect that it will be implemented by everyone, and over time we will see a significant change.

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“I feel this has more traction to it than previous initiatives because it has been developed by some really powerful people, and there have been discussions with people from all parts of the game.

“It has involved owners of clubs, players who are still playing, managers, coaches and media. It’s been shaped and formed by everyone, and I think that is something that was needed.

“Clubs have been doing good work for a long time but we need now to hold people accountable and have transparency, and I think we’ll get it with this.

“I hope it will be implemented and if people and clubs are not implementing it, we can publicly ask, ‘why not?'”

Chris Powell

Chris Powell has backed the FA’s new diversity code (Nick Potts/PA)

So far, 42 clubs from across the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship have signed up to the code.

Clubs will have to commit to making 15 per cent of new executive positions available to people from minority backgrounds.

There will also be targets for gender diversity with a plan for 30 per cent of new appointments in senior leadership positions to be female candidates.

Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers – Sky Bet League One – The Valley

Doncaster manager Darren Moore is one of the few black managers in the top four divisions (Steven Paston/PA)

Women’s football clubs will also have to commit to having 50 per cent of female coaches.

At men’s professional clubs 25 per cent of new hires will be black, Asian or of mixed heritage.

Shortlists for interview will need to have at least one male and one female black, Asian or of mixed-heritage candidate, if applicants meeting the job specifications apply.

The code focuses on increasing equality of opportunity with hiring targets – rather than quotas – to encourage recruitment from across society with hiring based on merit.

Southampton were the only Premier League club missing from the initial list of those signing up to the code, explaining their stance in a statement released to the PA news agency.

“In 2020 Southampton FC achieved the Premier League’s Advanced Equality Standard at the first time of asking, the only club to have achieved this to date,” it read.

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“Southampton FC are wholly supportive of the Football Leadership Diversity code objectives. We are aware that the Premier League are revising their Equality Standard to bring the two closer together.

“At this time the club consider it most appropriate course of action to wait and understand how a revised Premier League Equality Standard and the Football Leadership Diversity Code will work together and complement each other before revising our recruitment targets and already established processes.”

The Premier League offered its full backing to the new code, saying it “compliments the significant work the League and its clubs have already undertaken, demonstrating our collective and continued commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across the game.”

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Campaign group Kick It Out also welcomed the FA’s initiative and said it would be closely monitoring football’s progress in meeting its targets.

Chair Sanjay Bhandari said: “At Kick It Out, we will be asking fans and sponsors to encourage their clubs to sign up to the code.

“We will be seeking to provide the reporting transparency that tracks how football is progressing against these targets in the coming years.

“We will also work with the industry to ensure that the diverse pipeline of talent is better connected to opportunities.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace

Paul Elliott helped launch Kick It Out in 1993 (John Stillwell/PA)

“We know that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. We need to correct that imbalance.”

Former Chelsea and Celtic defender Paul Elliott, head of the FA’s inclusion advisory board, echoed Powell’s belief that the new code will boost diversity in the game.

He said: “Many clubs are already doing good work in this area and we have been pleased to see football stand together this year to challenge the injustice we are seeing in society.

“However, positive and tangible action is required to drive change and take the next step. We believe the introduction of the Football Leadership Diversity Code will signal a long-term change for the English game.”