A Game Changer? The Use of Positive Action to Address Racial Disadvantage within Professional Football Coaching
AuthorsCowell, Sophie L.
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AbstractThis research considers the use of positive action to address the underrepresentation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) managers and coaches within English professional football. It focuses on the English Football League’s (EFL) Recruitment Code as an example of such a measure and explores whether the Recruitment Code can be considered an effective or flawed form of positive action to redress the racial inequalities faced by BAME managers and coaches. Twenty-five percent of professional footballers within the English professional leagues are BAME, significantly higher than the general BAME population within the United Kingdom of 14% (Sports People’s Think Tank ‘SPTT’, 2015). Despite this, the number of BAME managers and coaches employed within senior positions in professional football remains disproportionately low at 4.6% (SPTT, 2017). At the beginning of the 2016/17 season, the EFL introduced a positive action measure requiring clubs to interview at least one candidate from a BAME background for coaching and management positions (EFL, 2017). Whilst there exists a body of research into the experiences of BAME managers and coaches and barriers to their career progression, the issue is still largely unexplored from an anti-discrimination law perspective (Veuthey, 2013). Further, research on the EFL’s Recruitment Code is limited. This research aims to fill this gap, by utilising a mixed-methods approach to explore stakeholder perceptions of positive action and the EFL’s Recruitment Code as a form of positive action. It considers the extent to which the Recruitment Code may fit within the legal framework and whether it may demonstrate the legislative approach of reflexive regulation working effectively. This research identified several barriers to BAME manager and coach career progression, including higher standards, extra pressure, lack of role models, the recruitment practices used, and the specificity of football. It found that whilst most participants within this research supported the use of positive action, they perceived significant confusion between positive action and positive discrimination amongst the general public. On the EFL’s Recruitment Code, participants pointed to a lack of transparency and a general lack of understanding, believing the Code would not succeed in isolation and should form part of a package of measures. When considered in light of reflexive regulation, participants also pointed to factors including a perceived lack of consultation, monitoring and enforcement that suggest that features of successful reflexive regulation, as outlined by Hepple (2011), are missing. However, some participants commended the EFL for implementing the measure in light of this perceived lack of understanding of, and support for, positive action. This thesis provides Pointers for Action at Micro (Club), Meso (Sector) and Macro (National Policy) Levels, including the need for greater education and awareness, transparent monitoring and senior buy-in, as well as a need to rephrase the concept of positive action. The thesis outlines how the EFL’s Recruitment Code has the potential to be successful if introduced as part of a holistic life cycle approach to addressing underrepresentation, but in its current format can be considered a flawed form of positive action that is unlikely to redress the racial disadvantage that BAME managers and coaches face. It concludes by detailing the impact that a successful positive action measure within such a high-profile arena could have on both football and the use of positive action generally, if the EFL’s Recruitment Code is adapted in line with the suggested implications and pointers for action.
CitationCowell, S. L. (2021). A game changer? The use of positive action to address racial disadvantage within professional football coaching [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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