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Opportunity knocks for diversity in the bowels of football

The Football Association (FA), Premier League and Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) all have impending senior appointments and now is time to take diversity earnestly.

The recent resignation of FIFA vice-president and FA Chairman Greg Clarke due to “unacceptable language” used in reference to black players is a clear symptom of deep-rooted issues within the leadership of football.

It also demonstrates the chance for football’s authorities to take a significantly new and modernised approach to prospective executive appointments.

While a third of players in the Premier League are black, executives have been accused of being ‘pale, male and stale’.

Brentford have become known for their forward thinking player recruitment process. The data and science-led recruitment system is not limited to just playing staff, however, and can serve as an example for other clubs and organisations.

Decisive decision making and thought-leading business processes from executives at Brentford have enabled the club to profit in excess of £50 million on the player sales of Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins to West Ham and Aston Villa respectively.

Head of Football Operations at Brentford is Lorna Falconer. Falconer is one of the few black women in a position of power in the men’s game. Three years ago, the west London team appointed Monique Choudhuri, a leadership, recruitment and inclusion expert to sit on a board already populated by eight women - equating 22% of its staff.

"We come from the basis that human decision-making is flawed and that we all have bias," says Choudhuri.

"Because we're so big at using data to inform our decisions on how we pick players, we started to see if we could use data to challenge our own assumptions in the way we ran the club.

"If you have many people from many different backgrounds around the table you are going to get a better competitive advantage because you're thinking about things from a different point of view.

"If you're all the same person, all thinking the same, guess what? You're going to wake up tomorrow and you're going to all think the same again."

Based on recent events, it is clear that football has a considerable amount to learn, and with Brentford striving to become the “most inclusive club in the United Kingdom,” there are few better clubs to learn from.

Author: Charlie Farmer