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Recruiting diverse talent in Football

Recruiting diverse talent in Football

The Football industry is awash with regulation. Some of this is fairly rigid and robust, other aspects are far more flexible. One of the things we often see in the media however, is positive action around BAME coaches. Every few months journalists pick up on this, as do campaign groups, and talk about how ‘unacceptable’ and ‘concerning’ the lack of BAME coaches is across the game.


What these stories fail to acknowledge is the lack of diversity across the game. However, what Inclusion in Sport know from working across professional clubs, Foundations and Trusts and County FA’s is that the Football industry has a more critical problem, potentially more challenging than other industries, when it comes to under representation in particular.


Of course, the challenge isn’t just around BAME representation; we also see a significant underrepresentation of women in senior positions, and a huge gap in knowledge around the number of LGBTQ+ people working in the game and alike. When it comes to thinking about people’s religion or faith, whether people working in the game are parents or carers, or how employers support people with neurodiverse conditions are a long way off for most of the industry.


When thinking about recruitment this all too often falls to Human Resources, where an organisation has capacity in this area. This can often lead to a compliance based approach to many areas of diversity and inclusion, not just recruitment, or what we call a ‘bare minimum’ approach.


However, there are some really simple steps which we have outlined below, which we would encourage all organisations advertising roles within the industry to follow:


Include salaries

Not including a salary on your advert is our biggest and most common bugbear. There is a perception that an organisation gains some sort of commercial advantage by not disclosing this. Reality is, every organisation knows how much it can afford to pay before it goes on to advertise. In addition, you aren’t gaining an advantage; to many it looks like you are already trying to take advantage of your employees, which doesn’t foster a good start to the relationship. In addition, there is lots of research to suggest that underrepresented groups, particularly women, will fare worse when salaries are not disclosed. This also has a knock on effect on gender pay gap reporting which is another blog entirely.


Find your flex

Why have you put a location on your advert? Why have you specified working hours/days for an office based role? Ah we notice you have said that the employee needs to be flexible around match days and events…. We think more roles should be advertised as;


"Location: Flexible"


It’s 2019, most of your workforce will be aged 25+, but more likely 30+, and as a result will have not just other interests, hobbies and commitments but also friends and families. People with caring responsibilities, whether that’s children or older relatives, are far more likely to be disadvantaged by such a rigid approach to working patterns. And disproportionately, people with caring responsibilities, are also more likely to be women. Some roles might be more challenging; such as ground staff or cleaners, however there are still times where these roles might have to catch up with some admin or do some ordering; why can’t they do this at home, after the kids have gone to bed?


Advertise widely

Football is a global business. However, that doesn’t mean organisations need to neglect their communities. Take a look at your recruitment data over the last couple of years and you will probably see 80% of applicants are men, 95% white, about 2% LGBTQ etc etc. Your organisation wants the best people to apply, so you have a great pool of candidates to choose from. However, consider whether the best candidate comes from the relatively narrow profile of candidates you have had applying over the last 12 months or so. In reality, there will be people who might not have an interest in Football who would be a great asset for your business. And you already have these connections; via a Trust or Foundation, through fan groups, through Inclusion Advisory Groups or just through colleagues’ networks. Often, it will be free and will just cost the time to email the advert and job description to your contacts. 


Check your language

We still see organisations posting jobs like ‘GroundsMAN’, ‘ChairMAN’ and alike. However gendered language goes beyond male suffixes. Due to the way we have been socialised over generations there are lots of words that are heavily weighted when it comes to gender. There are free tools that you can use to check job descriptions for gendered language but here’s an example;


Sales Executive

….We are looking for a driven, confident, aggressive sales executive to attract new customers to our corporate hospitality suites.”

Putting this through a gender decoder, this highlights the following word as male coded words;

Aggressive, driven, confident


So the new advert could look like this instead;


Sales Executive

….We are looking for a responsive, collaborative, enthusiastic sales executive to attract new customers to our corporate hospitality suites.”


A subtle difference but chances are, if your recruitment packs are written by men, targeting men, in a male dominated industry, they will be coded towards…. You guessed it, men.

Think about how accessible your advert is too- ideally size 14 font, left aligned, Arial font. Use the accessibility checker on newer versions of Microsoft Office before publishing anything.


Diversity Statements

We are not interested in diversity statements or equality policies when it comes to recruitment practice. Copying and pasting a statement stating your organisation will do some admin in a ‘fair and inclusive’ way or has a ‘zero tolerance approach’ to discrimination means nothing. Doing some of the above, or making sure that you have representative interview panels, people involved in shortlisting are trained to do so (maybe they’ve even undergone some education on biases)… Too often when it comes to diversity, words replace actions. However it’s the actions that will facilitate change. We appreciate you might need some of these bits of paperwork but this isn’t your organisation ‘doing diversity’; this is compliance, the ‘bare minimum’ and what we want is action not words.


If you’ve read this, hopefully you have found some of the above thought provoking and, if you aren’t doing all of these already, will give you some actions when it comes to thinking about the way in which you recruit more diverse talent to you organisation.


Inclusion in Sport work with professional football clubs, leagues and national governing bodies of sport to disrupt the way they do things around diversity and inclusion. We undertake projects, compliance tasks, provide advice and training. We do, we advise, we train. Visit for more information.