The Football Association’s record on diversity is again under scrutiny, with Sky Sports News able to reveal the FA Asian Women’s Football Advisory Group has met just twice in person in almost four-and-a-half years.
One member, who did not wish to be named, told Sky Sports News the group was “largely redundant” with another saying that they “would describe the group as a talking shop, but the truth is the group doesn’t even do much talking”.
The FA Asian Women’s Football Advisory Group has more than 20 members and was chaired up until last year by former Dorset FA chief executive Sue Hough. Hough currently chairs both the FA National Game Board and the FA Women’s Football Board and also sits on various working committees.
Jayna Patel took over as chair at the beginning of this year, with her appointment ratified following an in-person meeting at Wembley Stadium more than 10 months ago. That was the group’s second in-person meeting.
Sky Sports News has been told that there have been no subsequent meetings, and that there have only been a handful of remote meetings since the group was initially formed back in 2019.
The Football Association has been approached for comment.
The revelation comes less than a month after Wasim Haq resigned as a member of the FA Council after saying “Adolf Hitler would be proud of Benjamin Netanyahu” amid Israel’s ongoing military action in Gaza.
Haq, who served as the BAME football communities representative on the Council and had previously been on the FA Inclusion Advisory Board, stepped away from his role the day after data released by the Football Association – three years on from the launch of the Football Leadership Diversity Code – showed that the 53 clubs signed up collectively failed to meet any of the eight hiring targets set last season.
That came just over a month after Rabbi Alex Goldberg resigned as chair of the FA Faith and Football network over the governing body’s refusal to light up the Wembley arch for England’s international friendly with Australia. It’s since been confirmed the arch will no longer be lit up to mark terror attacks across the world or for social causes.
Following his resignation, the FA thanked Rabbi Goldberg for his service and said the Faith and Football network was an informal group and not part of the FA’s governance structure.
The Football Association Asian Women’s Football Advisory Group was founded in the summer of 2019 and is also not part of the FA’s governance structure.
The FA said the group would inform the actions needed to embed Asian women in football at all levels, adding that the work would form part of the FA Women’s strategy, running from 2020 until 2024.
But since then, the lack of ethnic diversity in the women’s game has been brought sharply into focus on a number of occasions, notably in February 2021, when England named a squad comprised entirely of white players for a friendly against Northern Ireland, with Nikita Parris unavailable due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Then-Bristol City forward Ebony Salmon was eventually added to the squad, but the chronic lack of ethnic diversity was laid bare for all to see during England’s stunning Euros triumph last year when head coach Sarina Wiegman named an all-white starting XI for every single match of the tournament.
Earlier this year, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes described women’s football as a “middle-class sport” before a glaring lack of ethnic diversity in this season’s Arsenal’s first-team squad led to head coach Jonas Eidevall admitting that it “is a problem” for his side, adding it is part of a wider diversity problem in the women’s game.
An independent review of domestic women’s football – ordered by government and led by England legend Karen Carney – made a series of recommendations back in July, including that the FA should urgently address the lack of diversity across the women’s game.
The government has since backed all of the recommendations in the review and has challenged the FA and wider stakeholders to go further and set a new standard for women’s sport.
The Government will take forward the following recommendations
- Implement world-leading standards for players, fans, staff, and everybody involved in the women’s game
- Improve the talent pathway to ensure generations of world-beating Lionesses
- Address the lack of diversity in the game on and off the pitch
- Alongside Premier League, EFL and broadcasters, carve out a dedicated slot for women’s football
- Raise club standards for fan engagement
- Alongside the Premier League and Football Foundation improve funding flows across the pyramid to enhance facilities
- Utilise the change in administration to further develop the National League and grassroots game
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