FA diversity advisor Paul Elliott fears black women footballers could be alienated amid furore over ‘shocking’ and ‘concerning’ all-white Arsenal squad photo
- Fans criticised the lack of diversity in the squad photo of Arsenal’s women’s team
- Gunners acknowledged the team didn’t reflect the diversity across the club
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The FA’s diversity advisor Paul Elliott fears English football risks alienating a generation of black women footballers amid the furore over Arsenal’s all-white squad.
English football’s governing body will applaud the influence black females have had on the national sport on Thursday night with a special theatre production celebrating racial diversity in women’s football.
Still We Roar – an idea devised by the FA’s equality, diversity and inclusion officer Leah Forino-Joseph – highlights the inspirational stories of Kerry Davis, England’s first black player, Hope Powell, England’s first female and black manager and Mary Phillips, England’s first black captain.
Davis, Powell and Phillips will attend the show, which takes place at Wembley on Thursday evening.
The play comes after Arsenal broke their silence on fan criticism that their women’s first team does not feature a single player of colour, claiming that addressing the lack of diversity is a ‘priority’.
Arsenal Women’s squad photo for the 2023-24 season went viral after fans criticised the ‘shocking’ and ‘concerning’ absence of any players of colour
The FA’s diversity advisor Paul Elliott fears a generation of black women footballers could be alienated amid the fall-out from the Arsenal picture
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The 27-player team photo went viral, soon amassing more than four million views, as fans criticised the ‘shocking’ and ‘concerning’ absence of any players of colour.
‘We acknowledge our current women’s first-team squad does not reflect the diversity that exists across the club and the communities we represent,’ Arsenal said in a statement.
And Elliott, who has been a pioneer for diversity in English football, said: ‘I have 40 years of experience in football to understand the finer nuances especially when people of colour are spoken about.
‘The focus tends to be on black men and when women are talked about the focus needs to capture gender diversity.
Hope Powell, England’s first female and black manager, will be one of those celebrated in the theatre production Still We Roar
‘We have to be mindful and cognisant of the 21st century challenges in the game to get greater diversity across the women’s game at all levels to ensure their is a pathway for young women of colour particularly those from low socio-economic and disadvantaged backgrounds.
‘We have lost two generations of male black players who never had the equal opportunity to transition into coaches, managers and administrators so it would be a huge dereliction of football’s duty if they allowed the women’s game to emerge the same way.
‘The social, human and economic imperative of diversity is beyond reasonable doubt to all football clubs. The data is clear. I just want football to consistently do the right thing and be proactive not reactive.’
On Still We Roar, Elliott added: ‘The core concept of the play focuses on three black women who have been role models of the highest order and have made a positive contribution to English football at the highest level.
‘Many will remember the Three Degrees Cyrille Regis, Lawrie Cunningham and Brendon Batson and the generations of male black players that emerged on the shoulders of these great players like myself and many others that experienced the most horrific, unacceptable level of abuse.
‘But the story of the courage and bravery of these three strong black women must be remembered and amplified too. Their resilience has undoubtedly been their brilliance.’
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