Edleen John heralds the start of Black History Month 2021

The FA
To achieve equality in football, we must acknowledge the journey we've been on...

Edleen John, The FA's Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, herald the start of Black History Month 2021

October brings an opportunity to celebrate the contribution, achievements and impact of Black people and those from historically underrepresented ethnic communities across the UK in the recognised celebration of Black History Month.

For our organisation, this is one of many moments over the course of the year where we relish in celebrating the diverse communities who participate, engage in and support football. It’s important for us to celebrate Black History Month, as to achieve equality in our national sport, we must acknowledge the journey we’ve been on.

While the world today is more comfortable recognising and celebrating the various cultures, backgrounds and contributors to the football ecosystem, this hasn’t always been the case, and there are many unsung heroes and pioneers who we will celebrate and acknowledge meaningfully over the course of Black History Month.

Over this past summer, we’ve seen the huge power that football has to unite friends, family, different communities, and the country.

Edleen John with Lionesses Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze during a trip to St. Geprge's Park

We’ve celebrated and enjoyed the diversity of inspiring teams and every single member comes from a community that deserves equal opportunities, regardless of their chosen career path or any individual protected characteristics.

This summer also reminded us that society is not free from discrimination and not everyone is aligned with our ethos of respect for all, but unfortunately this isn’t new.

Black History Month exists because we haven’t always respected and celebrated all communities, cultures, and backgrounds. So this dedicated period enables our organisation to reflect and celebrate the contributions of Black people and historically underrepresented ethnic communities to our rich footballing tapestry.

Out of the adversity of the discriminatory behaviour seen after the UEFA EURO 2020 Final came a powerful unity from fans and communities across the country, which reaffirmed our organisational desire to create a game free from discrimination.

We're honest in recognising that we’ve taken positive steps forward, but there is still more to do. We see ethnic diversity on the pitch within the men’s professional game, but we still don’t see enough in the women’s professional game or within the elite disability teams. This is why we’re committed to tackling underrepresentation of historically underrepresented ethnic communities, from grassroots to the top-flight of the game.

We also know that we don’t see enough ethnic diversity off the pitch. That’s why we launched the Football Leadership Diversity Code, in direct response to the significant shift in conversation around equality following the murder of George Floyd. We were delighted with the number of signatories who committed to the Code, which showed the collective desire to create meaningful change across the game. We will be publishing a progress update on this in the near future, and while we know it will take time to see the results we want to see, the collective focus and determination gives me hope.

Across the non-professional game, we see significant ethnic diversity on the pitch, but we recognise that the largely volunteer-based administration and leadership side of the game does not yet reflect this.

That’s why we will soon be launching a version of the Football Leadership Diversity Code tailored for the National League system, Women’s pyramid and grassroots game.

We’re truly committed to changing the landscape of English football for the better, so it better reflects us all. We value the contribution of all those who keep the game running and know that the resources and time of those working within football in local communities is limited, but this Code will provide an opportunity and framework to help ensure that football reflects the rich diversity in the communities it serves.

During this Black History Month, we’re excited to celebrate some of the communities that have helped to shape and influence our game over the years. So throughout October, we will be celebrating in various ways across our channels.

This will include exploring the heritage of our fans, current and former players, and coaches; highlighting Black heritage pioneers of the past from across the game; continuing our partnership with the Black Collective of Media in Sport [BCOMS] by providing matchday opportunities for students; and specific activations during Barclays FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, Emirates FA Cup and England fixtures.

Like every organisation, the FA is on a journey and over the past 12 months we’ve made progress. We’ve listened to colleagues, which has resulted in the creation of our internal Black Lives Action Plan and our first Employee Network focused on ethnicity.

We’ve felt and dealt with discomfort and we’ve recognised the power and importance of inclusivity being at the heart of everything we do. We’re not perfect and we will make mistakes along the way, but we’re dedicated and committed to driving positive action with tangible outcomes and celebrating important moments along the way.

As we look to the future, we must work with our partners, footballing stakeholders, participants and fans to collectively create an environment where everybody feels safe and welcome, both on and off the pitch.

Our imminent anti-discrimination strategy will explain how we plan to focus on this, and while Black History Month is such a crucial part of acknowledging, valuing and celebrating our differences, this is part of our year-round effort to make sure that our game is for all.

Our work in this area will not stop, so please join us in celebrating and engaging on the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion.

By Edleen John
The FA’s International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Director