By: Chandrashekar Bhat
WOMEN of colour are making strides in football with their proportion in England youth teams rising significantly in the past five years, indicating the governing body’s diversity and accessibility efforts are paying off.
The proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) players selected for England women’s youth teams has gone up from seven per cent in the 2017-18 season to the current 17 per cent.
Figures released by the Football Association (FA) showed that the share of BAME players selected for women’s Under-17 camps has increased to 36 per cent from five per cent two years ago.
The introduction of Discover My Talent in 2021 appears to have played a key role in the improved diversity in football as it widened the accessibility of the game at the grassroots.
Under the talent discovery scheme, anyone – a teacher, a coach, a parent or even a friend – can recommend and refer a potential player directly to the FA.
More than 3,000 players have been referred through the scheme in a year with half of them coming from areas of higher deprivation. Of them, 320 have been identified as a real talent of interest, while 75 are now in the final stages of selection for England’s U15, U16 and U17 teams.
Kay Cossington, the FA’s women’s technical director, said the organisation had a responsibility to ensure that every young girl seeking a football career “has a clear pathway to doing so.”
“These changes ensure more focused investment and will address some of the historic challenges many different age groups have faced when trying to access the game”, Cossington said.
“We strive for our game to be more reflective of wider society and making our game more diverse, inclusive and accessible is the central ambition to the restructure of our pathway,” she said.
Anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out has welcomed the FA’s efforts to find players from a wider pool of talents and provide greater opportunities for aspiring women and girls.
“We are encouraged by their ambition to ensure that every talented player, regardless of background, has the opportunity to fulfil their potential”, Kick It Out’s chief operating officer Hollie Varney told the Guardian.