South Asians in Football: FA diversity guru understands why under-representation

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Football Association diversity chief Dal Darroch says he understands why many people would describe the lack of South Asian representation in the elite game as “a football emergency”.

The 2023/24 Premier League season did not feature a British South Asian for the second successive campaign – the first time the country’s single-largest ethnic group has been absent from the top division for two seasons in a row in almost 15 years.

The number of British South Asians with a professional contract in the English game has also fallen sharply since a Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) update last year, with Danny Batth, Otis Khan and Aaron Drewe among the players being released. Sky Sports News exclusively revealed last week that goalkeeper Rohan Luthra is also leaving Championship side Cardiff City.

Barely half a per cent of professional footballers in England are from South Asian backgrounds, with just four players from the community totalling at least 500 minutes in the EFL across the 2022/23 season.

The FA recently told Sky Sports News that the gross under-representation of South Asians in the professional game is “stark” and that taking steps to address the long-standing issue is now “a long-term aim” for English football’s governing body.

The Frank Soo Foundation Are Joined By The Football Association, Sky Sports News And The Football Supporters' Association At Frank Soo Street At The Site Of Stoke City'S Victoria Ground Former Stadium
The Frank Soo Foundation are joined by the FA’s Dal Darroch, Sky Sports News’ Dev Trehan and Nilesh Chauhan from the Football Supporters’ Association at Frank Soo Street at the site of Stoke City’s Victoria Ground former stadium

FA head of diversity and strategic programmes Darroch has now conceded the community’s well-documented absence across the game could be viewed as a crisis.

“Many people would say it is a football emergency,” he said in Sky Sports’ Football’s Hidden Talent documentary.

More from South Asians In Football

The documentary heard from the Premier League, Football Association and the PFA about their respective South Asians in Football initiatives to boost representation.

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FA director Yasir Mirza admits South Asian representation in elite football is a ‘stark’ challenge but says the FA is committed to addressing it

Premier League director of football Neil Saunders said: “What I can say from the Premier League is that we’re absolutely committed to improving the pathways for young boys of South Asian heritage into our academies.”

Nasir: We’re ‘nowhere close’ to dealing with this

Former Fa National Game Board Member Abu Nasir At Wembley Stadium
Former FA National Game Board member Abu Nasir says ongoing concerns need to be addressed

Sky Sports News has learned the FA is bringing English football together to regularly discuss South Asian inclusion. Former FA National Game Board member Abu Nasir has formed part of those discussions, and says the game is nowhere close to tackling an issue “that has blighted the game for more than 50 years”.

“We’ve noted the range of recent comments made by stakeholders who appear to be making some genuine efforts,” Nasir told Sky Sports News.

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The final part of Football’s Hidden Talent hears from the Premier League, EFL, FA, PFA and Kick It Out and asks what more can be done to find the next generation of footballers from South Asian backgrounds

“But the reality is that football is nowhere close to dealing with an under-representation issue that has blighted the game for more than 50 years.

“That requires appropriate investment and urgent discussions about that, and much more detail because at the moment we are failing to address ongoing concerns.

“We really need to get serious. A lot of questions remain unanswered, especially around data transparency, real collaboration and openness, as well as a joint strategy between all stakeholders that aligns resources and ensures football’s hierarchy delivers real meaningful outcomes.

“Having been involved in football at various levels since my childhood, I can’t help but feel frustrated by the lack of progress. My family has a long history of playing and supporting the beautiful game, yet not much has changed since my grandparents’ time in the 1950s.”

British South Asians in Football

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