Levelling the field?

Influencing strategies, policies and programmes to increase the representation of BAME coaches in men’s professional football in England

Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) coaches are significantly under-represented in men’s professional football in England.

Dr Bradbury’s research has addressed this issue, helping to shape the Football Association’s (FA) national strategic approach to increase BAME representation in coach education and employment.

It has also improved the Football Association (FA) and English Football League’s (EFL) recruitment policies while enhancing the effectiveness of national development programmes to support BAME coaches.

Our impact

Shaping the FA’s national strategic approach

  • Dr Bradbury’s research underpins three new strategy documents – the BAME Coach Development Strategy (2017), Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (2018), and Football Leadership Diversity Code (2020).

Ensuring equitable practices

  • In 2018, the FA implemented a new policy for coach recruitment which has already doubled the representation of BAME coaches within England teams.
  • The EFL implemented two new coach recruitment policies in 2016 – resulting in a two-fold increase of BAME head coaches at EFL clubs.

Enhancing BAME coach development

  • The £1.4 million FA Coach Inclusion and Diversity programme (see below) which provides bursaries and resource support to BAME coaches to achieve HLCE awards has delivered significant representational outcomes for BAME coaches.
  • The FA and PFA Elite Coach Placement programme – launched in 2018 – has enabled 15 BAME coaches to complete season-long placements with England national team squads.
  • In 2020, the PFA, EPL and EFL launched the Professional Player to Coach scheme which provides salaried work placements for BAME former players with EFL first teams and youth academy clubs. It also supports their participation in HLCE awards.

Addressing Under Representation
Panel discussion at the Soccerex Global Convention 2017 featuring Dr Bradbury, Michael Johnson and Andrew Cole

Watch the discussion

The research

Dr Bradbury has explored racialised inequalities within football coaching for more than a decade, focusing on two related areas that impact BAME coaches.

As part of two European-wide studies – commissioned by Kick It Out and the Football Against Racism in Europe Network – he examined levels of representation and racialised barriers to career progression in men’s professional football. He then moved his focus to all levels of the men’s professional game in England.

He found low numbers of BAME coaches in senior coaching positions within FA national teams (6%), professional club first teams (3.3%) as well as in youth academies (3.6%). In addition, he observed that few BAME coaches were achieving High Level Coach Education (HLCE) awards.

His work also identified racialised barriers to career progression including limited access to and negative experiences of HLCE courses, racism and stereotypes in coach education and club workplace settings, and racially closed network-based methods of coach recruitment – resulting in reduced motivation to pursue coaching careers.

The second, more recent, strand of his research has examined the implementation and effectiveness of national programmes to develop and support BAME coaches.

In 2012, he was commissioned to examine the FA COACH Bursary (pilot) programme which was later expanded and rebranded as the FA Coach Inclusion and Diversity programme. This research included a survey of 100 BAME coaches and interviews with 55 BAME coaches and academy staff at professional clubs.

He found examples of operational good practice as well as challenges to programme delivery around accessibility and inclusivity in HLCE courses and club-based placements. However, his findings did highlight the programmes’ educational, experiential and vocational benefits all of which support the career progression of BAME coaches.

Research funders

  • The FA
  • Kick It Out
  • Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Network

Development partners

  • The FA
  • Kick It Out
  • Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Network
  • Sports People's Think Tank (SPTT)
  • Professional Footballers' Association (PFA)

Meet the experts

Photograph of Steven Bradbury

Dr Steven Bradbury

Senior Lecturer in Sport, Equality and Diversity