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‘Watershed moment’ for English football as FA adopts Rooney Rule

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The FA wants to become a more inclusive organisation where the workforce more represents the people who play football today
– Martin Glenn, chief executive, The FA

The Football Association has revealed a raft of major reforms, including a rule to interview at least one applicant from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background for England jobs.

English football’s governing body will create its own version of the ‘Rooney Rule’, which was implemented in the NFL in 2003 to improve diversity in head coaching and senior football operation jobs.

“The FA wants to become a more inclusive organisation where the workforce more represents the people who play football today,” said chief executive Martin Glenn.

Lord Ouseley, chairman of anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out, described the proposals as “a watershed moment”.

“I looked to the FA to give leadership on the matter of equality, inclusion and cohesion and I now expect those in positions of power across professional football, along with the FA, to drive forward the highest standards of activity in order to achieve these objectives which will benefit everyone who participates in the game,” he said.

The FA’s last inclusion and anti-discrimination action plan ran from 2013 to 2017 but it admitted “there are significant issues that require renewed and sustained focus… We must better demonstrate our leadership on this agenda”.

It said the ‘Rooney Rule’ will apply to jobs across England teams.

English Football League clubs agreed to introduce their own version of the rule from 1 January but the same measure has been applied to roles in their academies since June.

Research conducted in November showed only 22 of 482 roles across England's top-four leagues were filled by coaches from BAME backgrounds.

Other changes include:

• Inclusion Advisory Board (IAB) chairman Paul Elliott will attend all FA Board meetings as an observer. The IAB will present the next iteration of its plan for 2018 for approval on an annual basis, with quarterly progress updates provided to the board. The equality, diversity and inclusion plan will be written into a revised FA strategic plan for 2016-20.

• The chief executive of Kick It Out will be invited to attend all IAB meetings as an ex-officio member, to help improve the coordination of inclusion work.

• Representatives from the Premier League, English Football League, National League, Professional Footballers Association, League Managers Association and the Football Supporters Federation will be invited to attend IAB meetings.

Commenting on the reforms, Sport England director of sport Phil Smith said: “We know people from under-represented groups are less likely to hold jobs in sport, coach, volunteer or even play sport and that has to change.

“These reforms in football, one of our biggest and highest profile sports, aim to remove some of the barriers that prevent a wider range of people from engaging in sport.”

Smith said he welcomed the announcement of another reform in the shape of a volunteering strategy to grow numbers through succession planning and training.

Another change aims to make it easier for players and staff to air grievances, with Glenn to oversee plans to change the culture around the England Women's team in the wake of the Eniola Aluko controversy.

In August, Aluko said she was victimised for reporting discrimination by then-manager of the England women's team, Mark Sampson, who was later sacked in relation to separate claims of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour.

The FA is working with UK Sport to create clarity on codes of conduct for players and coaches.

“The lessons we had to learn from the Eniola Aluko affair was that we didn't have the right procedures in place for elite people to raise concerns,” Glenn said.

“We didn’t have the right climate in place for people to feel they could raise their concerns easily.”

He also revealed the FA will publicly disclose its gender pay gap by April.

The announcement included a series of strategic investment plans. From next season, £180m per year will go directly back into football – up from £123m this season.

The investment follows increased revenue from the sale of the Emirates FA Cup and England broadcast deals, a new partnership with Nike and efficiency savings from a corporate restructure in 2015.

And the FA plans to repay £142m of debt for the construction of Wembley Stadium by 2024, saving over £2m a year in interest.

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