It was a Big Night for Women’s Football -So Why are there so few BAME players in English women’s football?

Women’s football diversity
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Barcelona took the Champions League Women’s trophy after they beat Chelsea 4-0 this Sunday at the Gamla Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg Sweden.

Barcelona are the first club to have won the men’s and ladies Champions League and is also the biggest margin of victory since the UWCL era began in 2009/10.

Chelsea, who were in their first final, were looking to take another step towards a domestic and European quadruple for the season and be the first English club to lift a women’s European trophy since Arsenal won the UEFA Cup in 2007.

So Why are there so few BAME players in English women’s football?

Slowly but surely black players are starting to make their mark in European women’s football, and Chelsea’s squad included midfielders Jessica Carter and Drew Spence, who has also won two caps for the England women’s national football team.

In Barcelona’s team is Asisat Oshoala , a striker from Nigeria who is also the captain the Nigerian national team.

Compared with the men’s game, the pool of BAME players to choose from in women’s football is a lot smaller.

At the Women’s World Cup in 2019, Manchester City’s Demi Stokes and Nikita Parris who plays for Olympique Lyonnais were the only non-white players in the England squad, and they still are in 2021.

Meanwhile in the men’s World Cup squad the year before, there were 13 players of colour – celebrated as “representing modern, multicultural England”.

While women’s football has grown exponentially in the past few years, the number of black and mixed-race players in an England squad for a major tournament has decreased from six in 2007 to two in 2019.

The statistics on BAME representation in English football can be difficult to pin down. Indeed, the football authorities faced criticism last year for not monitoring the number of elite players in the men’s or women’s games.

But Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling, speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight programme last year about the lack of BAME coaches and leaders in English football, indicated that “there’s something like 500 players in the Premier League and a third of them are black”.

Compared with the men’s game, the pool of BAME players to choose from in women’s football is a lot smaller.

That figure was backed up when Paul Elliott, chairman of the FA’s inclusion advisory board who said, “ It is estimated, though, that the proportion of BAME players in the Women’s Super League is lower – at between 10-15% BAME players in the WSL.”

Right now, to be honest, it’s not inclusive enough. And it is not diverse enough, and we know it,” said Baroness Sue Campbell, the Football Association’s director of women’s football.

Accessibility & opportunity

Aston Villa’s Anita Asante, 35, who has 71 England caps, says one reason there are so few BAME players in elite women’s football is inaccessibility.

“It’s getting more difficult to get the right accessibility for disadvantaged groups of young girls, especially in inner cities,” Asante said.

“When you’re seeing so few [BAME players] making it to the elite level you have to question if the system is really working. Does it need reviewing to find where the gaps are?

Baroness Sue Campbell the FA’s director of women’s football added, “When I first came into the FA five years ago, there were very few people focused on the women’s game. Now we have somebody in every division of the football association with a key leading focus on the women’s game.”

Campbell said one challenge is not having the resources of the men’s game. But she says that now women’s football has the “volume through participation“, the FA needs to redesign the pathway for its emerging talent.

The FA is also working with the EFL Trust to carry out more talent identification work in inner-city areas and has provided scholarships for players who need financial support. It says it is already seeing more ethnic diversity in the England youth teams.

2021 Champions League final, with two major teams Chelsea v Barcelona FC taking part, was expected to be one of the biggest watched woman’s soccer matches on TV this year.

The figures for the Women’s World Cup final were also very impressive as well, which means major sponsors are starting to support Women’s football.

More and more funds will start to flow into Woman’s football at many levels. So, let us hope that more and more teams will start to include talented black players in their squads in the future.

 

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