Is the Football Association “unable to modernise”?

The Football Association (FA) in England has recently been challenged about the lack of diversity at senior levels.Inclusive Leadership FA

A group of former FA executives, including former chairman Greg Dyke, told the UK government the FA is outdated and is being held back by “elderly white men”. They also highlighted their concerns of the FA’s “inability to modernise” and called for legalisation to reform the organisation.

The FA appointed their first female on the board in 2011 – Heather Rabbatts CBE. In 2013 she criticised the composition of the commission as being “all-white, all-male”.

The lack of diversity at the senior levels can have a significant impact on the overarching governance of the association – not having a diverse range of views and perspectives will also hinder the associations ability to modernise and harness the changes in some elements of the game, such as the success and popularity of women’s football.

In our new book ‘Inclusive Leadership – the definitive guide to developing and executing an impactful diversity and inclusion strategy locally and globally’ we identify where organisations currently are on their diversity and inclusion (D&I) journey by using the STAR Framework. We measure (i) the level of employee engagement and (ii) how much D&I is embedded into the business and everyday activity. It seems that The FA are in a state of ‘inertia’ – limited evidence of both employee engagement in the wider D&I agenda AND limited evidence of truly embedding this into the day-to-day business of all functions within The FA – certainly at the senior level.

For those of us who work with companies and organisations to support them to become more diverse and inclusive, we know that to reap the rewards of diverse thinking and perspectives it does take time to see the changes required. The FA are driving some change within the sport, for example, the “Kick It Out” programme. However, those who know them better than anyone, the former executives, are challenging them to change more and faster.

The FA 2016 – 2020 strategy clearly shows examples of where diversity and inclusion must influence the game for future success but without becoming more diverse and inclusive themselves they will struggle to deliver on these strategic aims, mainly:


  • ENGLAND TEAMS – England men’s and women’s senior teams ready to win in 2022 and 2023
  • EDUCATION – A world-leading education programme for a diverse football workforce
  • FEMALE FOOTBALL – A doubling of the player base and fan following of female football
  • PARTICIPATION – Flexible, inclusive and accessible playing opportunities for everyone

Getting D&I right within The FA is critical for the delivery of their business strategy. This isn’t a nice to have and this isn’t about pacifying the government or regulators that they are changing. Without the different views and perspectives around the senior table, without the diverse talent within the organisation to deliver effective change and without creating a culture where people feel included and able to speak up and share their views, The FA won’t deliver their plans for 2020 and we’ll continue to hear the same conversation time and time again.

Find out more about  ‘Inclusive Leadership’ here

Purchase the book on Amazon here


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