Aston Villa defender Anita Asante believes football should “cast a wider net” when it comes to finding players from ethnic minorities.
With Demi Stokes injured and Nikita Parris unavailable for selection due to Covid-19 protocols, Bristol City forward Ebony Salmon was the only non-white player in the England squad for their 6-0 win over Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
And as of June 2020, only an estimated 10 to 15 per cent of players in the Women’s Super League were black – significantly less than in the men’s top tier, where black footballers account for around a third of all players.
On The Women’s Football Show, host Jessica Creighton asked Asante: “Are black girls being left behind?”
Asante replied: “The FA have acknowledged now that this is an issue and we need to provide better access points for girls from disadvantaged groups that aren’t getting the same level of resources and access to the game.
“Really, that’s the problem.
“We know they are out there.
“We need to find the right pathways that are going to funnel them into talent pools and elite programmes that will get them to the highest level of the game, because we want to see a more diverse game that brings lots of different qualities for this England group in the future.”
The FA introduced their ‘Leadership Diversity Code‘ at the beginning of this season, which aimed to tackle inequality across senior leadership positions.
That code was focused on hiring leaders and coaches, with specific targets set. For example, at women’s professional clubs, “15% of new coaching hires will be Black, Asian or of Mixed-Heritage”.
However, Asante, who won 71 caps for England, said there should be an active effort within the game to increase diversity and inclusion for young players too – regardless of race, gender, disability, or sexuality.
The 35-year-old said: “Football is meant to be the barrier-breaker that brings communities and people together so ultimately football needs to cast a wider net over an intersection across society and at the moment, it hasn’t been able to do that.
“It is time probably to review the systems that we have in place and say: ‘where are the gaps?’
“Where can we learn and improve and actually start to redirect real energy into pulling in Black and Asian ethnic minority groups into the game?
“Because we know they are out there and it’s only going to widen the pool of talent across the game.”
You can watch the full interview on a repeat of the Women’s Football Show on Sunday at 9am on Sky Sports Football, or Sunday at 10am on Sky Sports Mix.