The English Football Association is being criticized this week after revealing a new policy intended to improve diversity within the association’s board and council. As a result of calls from minority activist groups, the FA stated that they will add 11 new members to its council, along with guaranteeing three board member spots for women. Additionally, members will be limited to a total of 9 years of service (3 terms of 3 years each).
That’s all fine in theory, but in practice, there are no safeguards for ensuring minority representation, and anti-discriminations groups like Kick It Out! are fed up. Herman Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out, said in a statement on Monday that he “would not trust these bodies to fully deliver transparent practices, and the changes are likely to be a sham. All the historical evidence suggests this, so I have no confidence in the proposals.” In other words, good job good effort, FA, but not good enough.
This isn’t just a PR issue for the association; the English House of Commons has already threatened to cut back on public funds due to having “no confidence” in the FA shifting policies to “better reflect modern English society.” Given that the United Kingdom’s population was made up of roughly 13% minorities in the 2011 Census, the fact that there are only 4 minority members out of 122 on the council (3.3%) makes this a pressing public issue for the country’s most popular sport.
For comparison, according to a 2015 Ticketbis report, the Premier League itself consists of players from more nationalities than any other top European league, including strong contingents from Latinx countries like Brazil (Phillippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus) and Argentina (Sergio Agüero, Pablo Zabaleta, and Nicolás Otamendi).
The government does have to be careful with how they pressure the FA to embrace the 21st century, however; FIFA, in all their wisdom, have strict policies against governments interfering with the national soccer associations. Withholding public funding (or even threatening to do so) is probably safe, but taking over the FA in order to modernize its membership would almost certainly land the Three Lions a sanction or three from soccer’s governing body.