Fare report on representation of Women, Black and Latinx individuals in US Soccer04 October 2020

DatashowsMLS,NWSLandUSSoccerFederationalllackdiversityinorganisationalleadershipandcoaching.USsoccerorganisations“marginaliseWomen,BlackandLatinxindividualsfromleadershipstructures”saysFare.

A new report looking at the representation of Women and ethnic minorities of Black and Latinx backgrounds within the US soccer industry has found shockingly low numbers from these groups in high level positions including ownership, executive leadership and coaching leadership.

The report, ‘The representation of Black and Latinx communities and Women in U.S Soccer’, says organisations across the industry are affected, including Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs, the MLS organisation and the National Womens Soccer League (NWSL) clubs.

The report’s findings include:

  • The rich history and presence of Black and Latinx players is not represented within coaching or in administrative leadership positions. The last available figures show that Black and Latinx players comprise 58% of the players in the MLS yet there is a broad and notable absence of Black and Latinx people. There are two Black Head Coaches and one Black General Manager, but it is rare to find any significant Black presence beyond assistant coach level. And whilst there is one Latinx co-owner of a club, two General Managers, and four Head Coaches, there is a lack of individuals from within the community in other positions
  • The low numbers of women in senior positions is reflected within the MLS clubs where women are involved in only 9.7% of senior executive roles. There is only one woman who is head coach of a NWSL team. Within the governing bodies, the US Soccer Federation has three (20%) women on its board and three (23.1%) women are part of the leading executives of the MLS organisation
  • One of the starkest findings of the report was the absolute absence of Black and Latinx women involved in leadership or executive positions in clubs in the MLS and NWSL. We found few women of colour anywhere except as players

Part of the reasons identified for the lack of representation include the impact of societal discrimination into soccer; stereotyping and labelling of the abilities of people from Black and Latinx communities as having insufficient skills, no relevant experience, and as ‘risky’ appointments; a lack of focus on diversity issues; the ‘pay to play’ structure which creates a permanent divide by permeating recruitment philosophies and management approaches.

The report has been commissioned and published by the Fare network and written by Dr Brenda Elsey of Hofstra University, and Dr Jermaine Scott of Florida Atlantic University. Dr Elsey is an expert in women’s soccer and Latinx participation, Dr Scott is an expert on Black soccer.

The report calls for change across through a series of recommendations that includes the need for cultural change in the way that Black and Latinx ethnic minorities and women are viewed within the industry; a recognition that they are and should be part of the long term future of U.S. soccer; comprehensive anti-racist and diversity and inclusion policies; the introduction of the NFL Rooney Rule 2.0; a need to understand both the performance gain and cultural arguments for diversity in coaching.

The Executive Director of the Fare network Piara Powar commented,

“It is shocking to see an entire sport in the United States effectively marginalise women and Black and Latinx individuals from within its leadership structures. What is worse is the absence of recognition of this picture and initiatives in place to correct it. It seems as if the leaders of soccer are quite happy to be a closed exclusionary group.

“US soccer is on a growth curve. The USWNT are World Champions, and in less than six years time the country will co-host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup. But unless the Soccer industry becomes more diverse and begins to share opportunity, the world will not see America. The world will see a sport dominated and run by white men.”

The Fare network is an international organisation working on tacking discrimination in football and using the sport as a means of social change. For more information see Farenet.org.

Click here to view the report in full.