Lack of ethnic minorities on FA body highlights faultlines in English football24 October 2013

TheonlywomanontheEnglishFABoardhasseverelycriticisedthelackofdiversityonanewFACommissiononthefutureoftalentinEnglishfootball.

Jamaican-born Heather Rabbatts is also the only ethnic minority on the FA Board and believes the organisation has “damaged” the chances of having an informed debate on the future of English players.

No representatives of ethnic minorities
She suggested it was “ironic” there are no representatives from the black and ethnic minority communities – at a time when a talented young black player, Andros Townsend, had helped England secure World Cup qualification.

Rabbatts insisted she had tried to raise the issues privately, but a refusal to understand her position left her with no option but to go public.

A letter from to her Board colleagues read: “As you all know from my comments at the Board this week, I believe that the lack of proper consultation on the make up of the Commission, the fact that no approval was sought from the Board, releasing the names of the “chosen” individuals at Leaders in Football [conference], the composition of the Commission itself and the lack of diversity, have all meant that the opportunity to lead an informed debate on the future of English players has been singularly damaged.

“I make the comments about diversity not because they are additional to this matter but because they lie at its heart.

“While England’s victories on Friday and Tuesday are due to many factors no one would argue that a young Black player made a huge difference and a young man whose father has played a significant role in fighting racism in football.

“It is therefore particularly ironic that a Commission to look at the national team has been formed with absolutely no representation from the Black and Ethnic Minority communities, many of whom play such an important role at every level of our game.”

Whilst the issue was addressed over the weekend through the appointment of Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, the topic of the under- representation of minorities remains.

Debate over dressing room joke
Rabbatts defended England manager Roy Hodgson following his controversial dressing room joke about a monkey in space that had been leaked to the media by a young player said to be offended by the racial references.

She wrote: “And during the storm over the manager I have totally supported the FA’s position and Roy himself and knowing Roy as I do, I have huge respect for him and have no doubt he feels deep regret over the incident.

“However, on the issue of the Commission, I have come to the conclusion that the FA’s current position is not sustainable and my own personal integrity and values are being compromised.”

England boss Hodgson used the punchline of a long NASA space programme joke about a monkey in space to illustrate the need for his team to give Townsend the ball in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Poland.

The incident has since led to a debate over appropriate language in dressing rooms and whether it was right to infer racism in the anecdote told by Hodgson.