‘Rooney rule’ for England among new FA initiatives

Ian Watson

The Football Association has announced a major increase in grassroots funding and several initiatives to boost diversity throughout the game.

Based on the speech chairman Greg Clarke gave to the FA Council in October shortly after a shambolic appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, the new plan is the governing body’s response to the issues thrown up by the Eni Aluko affair.

That saga, which eventually led to the sacking of England women’s team manager Mark Sampson, prompted Clarke and his senior team to ask why the FA continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, with little attention paid to its successes, such as England’s remarkable progress in age-group football.

In that job-saving speech, Clarke identified three major problems: the FA’s role is large and complicated and it is not viewed as competent; it is too male, old and white; and it does not use the experience of ex-players and managers as well as other national associations.

In a statement on Tuesday, FA chief executive Martin Glenn said: “The initiatives and investments announced today will make a significant impact to the way football is run in this country.

“They illustrate both how committed the FA is to becoming a more inclusive and diverse organisation, and how much it contributes to English football.

“The FA will now invest over £180million a year back into the game, more than we have ever done before, which will have a positive and meaningful impact at every level of football in England.”

That investment, which starts next season, is a 38 per cent increase on the £123m the FA has poured into football this season and is a result of the restructuring work Glenn has led over the last two and a half years and the impressive broadcast and commercial deals the FA has made under his watch.

This means the FA will double the prize fund for the FA Cup from next season, with more money for clubs at every stage of the tournament, and pay off the debt on rebuilding Wembley by 2024, several years early, saving £2-3m a year in interest payments.

There will also be £9m more a year for grassroots facilities, with a big push on mini-pitches for youth clubs and primary schools, and an extra £6m annually for grassroots participation.

Much of this will be spent on ensuring every one of England’s 64,000 youth teams has a coach with at least a level-one qualification but another new initiative will be the creation of a network of 150 “community club hubs”, where each hub will have a subsidised UEFA B level coach mentor.

There will also be more money for disability football, Futsal and the women’s game.

On the “cultural” side, there are a huge number of changes and new commitments, including:

:: A new whistle-blowing policy for players and codes of conduct and bespoke diversity training for coaches and staff

:: The adoption of a voluntary ‘Rooney Rule’ to interview a qualified black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidate for every new coaching job, and working with the Professional Footballers’ Association to identify and train promising BAME coaches

:: The publication of an external review of the FA’s diversity and equality record by Easter and the disclosure of its gender pay gap in April

:: A bigger role for its Inclusion Advisory Body, closer co-operation with anti-racism charity Kick It Out and an annual diversity report

:: The creation of Football Advisory Panel to tap into the expertise of former players and managers

:: And the trial of “on-camera” briefings by former players to give a “human face” to the FA’s disciplinary decisions