Football Association chairman Greg Dyke on Asians in football
Statistics for participation and representation from within the British Asian community across English football are a cause for concern.
It is a problem which The Football Association (FA) has recognised and is making strides to tackle, after taking a series of forums around the country to speak to members of the Asian community and discover why there are not more Asians playing, coaching, refereeing and administrating.
The FA Chairman Greg Dyke said: “The Asian community is the largest ethnic minority in the UK. From my own experiences in club football, I know the appetite is there for Asians to be involved in the game at all levels.”
“Yet only a handful of players have made the professional playing ranks over the past two decades. Players like Anwar Uddin, Zesh Rehman, Harpal Singh, Michael Chopra, Adil Nabi and Permi Jhooti have been the exception rather than the rule.
“Off the field, Zaf Iqbal, as a club doctor for Liverpool and Sangi Patel, a former physiotherapist for Queens Park Rangers, have made great strides too.”
Dyke continued: “It’s clear that however well-intentioned The FA and other football bodies have been in the past in offering more pathways for Asians to progress in the game, change hasn’t materialised, that passion not quite translating.
“We have – you could say at best – recognised the role we can play in addressing this issue for future footballing generations.
“So, over recent months The FA has visited the most densely populated British Asian communities across the country and delivered community consultation forums with eight events in as many weeks from Luton to Bradford, via Leicester and Sheffield amongst others.
“We have engaged with groups and individuals in each area and presented some suggestions, but with a real emphasis on asking the questions: ‘What do you think will address this problem? What will bring about positive change? And how can we support you with this?’
“The work is a component part of English Football’s Inclusion & Anti-Discrimination plan, signed up to by all the key agencies in the game.”
Explaining further, the chairman added: “In some places we were praised for reaching out, in others we were met with more scepticism.
“On the whole, the conversations were positive with a number of suggestions and solutions being raised.
“This ranged from increasing Asian Talent ID opportunities to promoting Asian role models in the game.
“Through these consultation forums we have spoken in person to over 400 people and are now adapting those original ideas to incorporate that community feedback.
“We have already fed back to everyone we met on what they told us and over the next few months, and will be going back again to the wider football family too, and explaining what those plans now look like.”
Although The Football Association will be doing their utmost, Dyke says everyone within the game has a huge part to play if the under-representation is to increase.
“The FA is only one part of the solution. Professional clubs, our partners at the professional leagues and County FAs, and groups like Kick It Out, Show Racism the Red Card, the Zesh Rehman Foundation, the Black and Asian Coaches Association and fan groups like the Football Supporters’ Federation particularly with its ‘Fans for Diversity’ initiative, all have a part to play in increasing the under-representation of Asians in our national game, but most of all the communities themselves and those people within them who are already part of the game.
“The most recent report from my FA England Commission recommends that our grassroots coaching structure changes and that more 3G facilities be made available to the grassroots game. Asian communities should be a bigger part of that, and hopefully together we can make that vision a reality.”
The FA is due to publish their plans around this work in early 2015.
From The FA