Eniola Aluko has called for the introduction of a target to ensure 30 per cent of sports boards are made up of individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds.

A recent report in the Daily Telegraph found only three per cent of board members in taxpayer-funded UK sports governing bodies were black.

Aston Villa Women’s sporting director Aluko said there was still a “glass ceiling” in management and the boardroom, as she addressed MPs at a hearing of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee on Tuesday morning.

She pointed to the introduction of the homegrown rule in football as an example of how mandatory regulation can bring about real change.

“I take heart in the fact we have progressed but there are still some ceilings,” she said.

“It’s about saying when we are looking for the best talent are we fishing in a wide enough pool to find that talent, or are we doing what we have always done which is safe and nepotistically recruiting from the same people that we all know and that look like us?

“Once you fish in a wider sea you’ll be surprised what you find in terms of the pool of talent.”

Asked whether targets were necessary, she added: “At this point we have to. There has to be something intentional about change. When you rely on self-regulation and people doing it themselves, they tend to fall back into a comfort zone of what they have always done.

Whether owners or directors like it or not, this is what the game needs to do

Eniola Aluko on the introduction of a diversity target in sport

“We do need a target, I know the 30 per cent target was mentioned earlier, that’s a good one in terms of it being something you can always strive and achieve towards.

“When you look at other areas of football, there are mandatory rules which are put into place that challenge and change very quickly recruitment behaviour.

“(The homegrown player rule) was a mandatory rule which instinctively changed recruitment behaviour, changed investment behaviour.

“That is what needs to happen in terms of representation of black and ethnic minorities, it needs to be something that whether owners or directors like it or not, this is what the game needs to do.”

The focus on the representation of black people and other ethnic minority groups in positions of responsibility in sport has been brought into focus by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Paul Cleal, an independent adviser to the Premier League, also gave evidence and said in his view it would be better if there were two individuals from a BAME background on every board.

“I think most bodies will need to have at least two partly to represent the breadth of diversity that the term ‘black and ethnic minority’ represents,” he said.

“It’s quite different as one minority on a board to make real change, having two people will make it easier for the individuals and they will be included.

The shirts of Premier League players have carried the Black Lives Matter slogan (Mike Egerton/NMC Pool/PA)
The shirts of Premier League players have carried the Black Lives Matter slogan (Mike Egerton/NMC Pool/PA)

“Ambitious targets would be appropriate. It is disappointing that the main sports don’t have much if any black and ethnic minority representation on their boards.”

Cleal defended the Premier League’s support of the BLM cause, where the slogan was worn on the backs of players’ shirts and players and officials have taken the knee in support of it before matches.

It was pointed out to Cleal that the BLM movement also stands for the defunding of the police and other aspirations which would be deemed political rather than a moral cause.

Cleal said: “My understanding is that the players and the Premier League are not trying to support that (Black Lives Matter) organisation.

“It is a much broader campaign. If an organisation chooses to use the same three words and asks to defund the police, I don’t believe that’s what anyone at the Premier League is asking to support.

“It’s an economic thing for the black community. I can see the issues about where do you draw the line, but for me I think the Premier League have done the right thing.

“White players know that some of their black colleagues don’t have the same chances they do of getting manager’s jobs in the future if things carry on like this and things need to change.”


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